People who follow trends at commercial and institutional IMAX theaters say that in recent years religious controversy has adversely affected the distribution of a number of films, including Cosmic Voyage, which depicts the universe in dimensions running from the scale of subatomic particles to clusters of galaxies; Galapagos, about the islands where Charles Darwin theorized about evolution; and Volcanoes of the Deep Sea, an underwater epic about the bizarre creatures that flourish in the hot, sulfurous emanations from vents in the ocean floor.
Volcanoes, released in 2003 and sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and Rutgers University, has been turned down at about a dozen science centers, mostly in the South, said Richard Lutz, the Rutgers oceanographer who was chief scientist for the film. He said theater officials rejected the film because of its brief references to evolution, in particular to the possibility that life on Earth originated at the undersea vents.
Hyman Field, who as a National Science Foundation official had a role in the financing of the film, said he understood that theaters must be responsive to their audiences. But he said he was "furious" that a science museum would decide not to show a scientifically accurate documentary such as Volcanoes because it mentioned evolution. "It's very alarming," he said, "all of this pressure being put on a lot of the public institutions by the fundamentalists."
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