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By James Roxbury
Saturday September 20, 2014 at 9:55 am

Whitaker Center is removing the IMAX operating system and installing a digital projector, since the theater will no longer broadcast IMAX films what is the future of the proposed Expedition Chesapeake IMAX movie.


From our archives

Michael Hanes presents renovation plans for the Whitaker Center during Gaming Advisory board meeting November 2013, the center was awarded a $100K gaming grant in 2014.

New carpet, painting, enlarging the Wonder store, and elevator upgrades.

On November 28th, Whitaker Center CEO Dr. Michael Hanes made a presentation to Dauphin County Commissioners on the status of the ongoing project, Expedition Chesapeake. Joining him in front of the Commissioners was John O'Connell of the Trinity Group, the State Street communications firm that is co-creator of the project.

As O'Connell stated, this project has been in the works since 2000. In June 2009, the Whitaker Center publicly announced its readiness to begin producing the multi-million dollar project aimed at raising awareness of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which stretches from New York to Maryland with the Susquehanna River as its centerpiece.

The concept of the project consists of a 3D IMAX film, a website, a mobile exhibit, educational materials, and a companion documentary about the project. Unfortunately, Expedition Chesapeake has encountered many delays, including the commencement of shooting the large format 3D film. Originally, it was announced that Philippe Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau was signed on to narrate the film. However, in 2011 without an explanation of the change, it was declared that Animal Planet's Jeff Corwin would be the new star of the project.

During his presentation to Dauphin County Commissioners O'Connell said, "We did not arrive at Jeff Corwin being part of this project by accident. We went out and tested him."

O'Connell was also careful to stress that the delayed film was not the most significant aspect of the Chesapeake Bay project. Rather he placed emphasis on the educational component of the project, which the Whitaker Center's CEO said will be launched in September 2013 once funds are secured.

O'Connell proclaimed, "The film will run its course, and eventually will serve out its time. The educational materials will live forever."

Aside from a new narrator, another change in the past year is the inclusion of David Lickley as producer/director. Lickley replaces David Nixon Productions (DNP), the company originally hired to shoot the IMAX film.

These changes have resulted in a three year delay in the anticipated premiere of the IMAX film, which was initially expected to be released in 2012, pushed to 2014, with a new set date of Spring 2015.

Aside from changes in the team, the Whitaker Center also seems to be facing funding challenges. Hanes referred to multiple goals of the project reliant on the need for funds, such as the creation of the educational materials and the mobile exhibit. There was no discussion on the budget for the IMAX film.

Previously, Dauphin County Commissioners granted the Whitaker Center $1 million in Unrestricted Gaming Funds to help facilitate the project. The Commissioners hope to see a return on that money--25% of the Whitaker Center's revenue on Expedition Chesapeake will go to Dauphin County.

At the Commissioners' meeting, it was further publicized that Whitaker Center and National Geographic are currently in negotiations for global distribution of still yet to be filmed "Expedition Chesapeake." O'Connell asserted that if National Geographic is interested, "you're onto something that makes sense."

Dr. Hanes supported O'Connell's position asserting that ten different countries have requested the educational materials for the project.


Part I: "We've been discussing this project for a very long time."

Part II: "Our target audience are moms and ten year olds."

Part III: The documentary

Part IV: Spring 2015

by Tara Leo Auchey

Photo by Natalie Cake


Michael Hanes CEO of the Whitaker Center appears before Dauphin County commissioners to give an update on the multimillion dollar IMAX movie 'Expedition Chesapeake', Dauphin County awarded Whitaker center a $1 million grant from it's unrestricted gaming fund program to assist in the financing of the project. Dauphin county gaming advisory board reported yesterday that Whitaker center has spent more than $817,000 of the $1 million grant.

Michael Hanes.


On May 25,2011 Dauphin County awarded a $1 million grant to the Whitaker Center to fund a multimillion dollar IMAX movie 'Expedition Chesapeake' Part-1

IMAX Movie.


Part - 2 of our look into why Dauphin County commissioners decided to award a 1 million dollar grant to Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts for the production of Expedition Chesapeake, a 10 million dollar program centered by an IMAX film, this video provides background information into the Faith Based film director David Nixon and his production company Possibility Pictures

The Kingdom of God.


Press release from Whitaker.

September 1, 2012.

Chesapeake Bay watershed to be the star of a multimedia project.

By Sara Kaplaniak

Storytelling. It's as old as the ages. Once taking place around a fire or through song, modern stories are passed along in a whole new way. Think YouTube, Facebook and smart phones. In a word, communicating today — especially with the younger generation — requires a screen.

This was on John O'Connell's mind when he approached the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts about producing its first IMAX film.

"I've wanted to see Whitaker Center make a significant impact on the region ever since playing a role in its creation and development while working with former Gov. Tom Ridge," said O'Connell, who is now president and CEO of the Harrisburg-based Trinity Group, a government and public relations firm.

That's how the project that would eventually become known as Expedition Chesapeake began — as an idea aimed at solidifying the Harrisburg-based science museum's ability to deliver the scientific, artistic, cultural and educational programs that would enhance the region's quality of life and economic vitality — lofty goals promised in its mission. Focusing the project on the Chesapeake Bay watershed came later, when Michael Hanes took Whitaker Center's helm in 2007.

According to O'Connell, featuring the Chesapeake Bay watershed immediately interested Hanes, who was aware of how natural landscapes lend themselves well to large-format films. "Whitaker Center is located right in the center of this national treasure," O'Connell added.

The idea has grown into a multimillion dollar project that showcases the Chesapeake Bay watershed as the star of an IMAX film, a made-for-television documentary, a traveling 4D science exhibit, and an online educational tool designed to engage students throughout the six-state watershed.

The storytellers include Canadian film director David Lickley, well-known naturalist and Animal Planet television host, Jeff Corwin, and people residing throughout the watershed.

Seed money for determining the feasibility of the estimated $10 million project came from a joint grant from Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Additional grant money, matched by Dauphin County, where Whitaker Center is located, came later when the project officially launched.

Grateful for the support in getting the project off the ground, O'Connell hopes that the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Dauphin County will look back on this initial funding as a good investment, pointing out his assumption that "attracting attention to this nationally significant watershed and an emerging regional science center will yield high returns to the state in the way of conservation funding, increased tourism and we hope, a new generation of environmental stewards."

While Expedition Chesapeake is not yet fully funded, O'Connell, Hanes and their 34-member advisory panel — made up of business and civic leaders, college and university professors, environmentalists and local agricultural producers from throughout the watershed — feel confident about increasing support as the project progresses. In fact, corporate support has steadily increased since the project's launch.

"Whether through film, television, online or a hands-on exhibit, Expedition Chesapeake viewers will get to know the Bay through the lives of our ancestors, neighbors and ourselves," Hanes said. "They'll meet people working to understand and personally address big issues — water quality, sprawl, energy development, non-native species and changing climate — affecting the nation's largest estuary."

Still in its earliest phases, the project has gathered a diverse team of scientists, environmental specialists, educators and film industry experts to craft the stories that will illustrate the intricate relationship between people, wildlife, land and water.

"We've been working from Cooperstown, NY, all the way down to the Bay and already have more than enough material to produce a provocative 42-minute IMAX film," O'Connell said. "Now it's time to capture the best scenery and write a script that shares these stories in ways that will resonate with every generation living in places that influence this spectacular resource and natural area."

Hanes would agree. "Not everyone is aware that 'Saving the Bay' involves mobilizing the entire watershed. The film and the enduring educational materials which accompany it will reveal how our choices have an impact far beyond what we see in our backyard or our neighborhood."


Michael Hanes. Introduction of the movie.

Movie Trailer. Lets pray.

Michael Hanes. The script is not complete.

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