For years, families have made a holiday tradition of visiting the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX Theater to see The Polar Express 3D on the largest screen in Chattanooga.
This year, that experience was dramatically improved courtesy of a remastered version of the film that took best advantage of the theater’s comprehensive upgrade to an IMAX with Laser audio/visual suite.
No matter how stunning the imagery was or how thrilling the sound effects were delivered, however, the film’s namesake steam locomotive was confined to the theater’s six-story screen.
Cue a Christmas miracle.
Through Jan. 1, visitors to the theater can see a massive replica of The Polar Express made by inmates at Walker State Prison out of painstakingly painted cardboard. The replica was purchased by Aquarium board member Franklin McCallie during a silent auction at the Faith and Character Based prison in Rock Springs, Ga..
“We’ve got several thousand Chattanooga children from all over Hamilton County who are going to be able to come and see it and enjoy it, get their pictures taken with it,” McCallie said. “I think it’s just going to be fun and enjoyable, and it will make them think of the movie The Polar Express.”
The enormous cardboard locomotive was featured in holiday parades in Chickamauga, Ga., and Lafayette, Ga., where it won a pair of first-place awards in the business category and a people’s choice selection. Even disassembled, its components fill a U-Haul truck from cab to tailgate.
“Five of the prisoners spent 18 days making this,” McCallie added. “When I looked at it and realized the work these men had put into it — how beautiful it is —I just felt like more people needed to see it. They didn’t need to tear this down; we needed to share it.”
The train will remain on display at the IMAX Theater through the end of the year. The Polar Express 3D will be screened at the theater daily at 2 p.m. through Friday, Dec. 23. On Saturday, Dec. 24, the 100-minute film will be shown at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Tickets are $13.95 for adults, $10.95 for children ages 3-12 and can be purchased online at http://tnaqua.org/imax or at the box office, located at 201 Chestnut St., Chattanooga Tenn.