A new IMAX movie debuts Friday, starring geysers, red rock canyons, mountaintops and redwood forests.
Called "National Parks Adventure," the film celebrates the beauty and thrills of America's parks. It's part of a yearlong celebration marking the centennial of the National Park Service.
The movie was filmed over nine months in more than 30 national parks, including Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, Yosemite, the Grand Tetons and Death Valley.
"Over 100 years ago these treasured places were protected for eternity for everyone and the national parks were born," intones the narrator, Robert Redford. The actor later adds that "Utah has 13 national park locations, which is precisely why I choose to live here."
But while there's plenty of footage of beautiful places and wildlife, the film is much more than a series of scenic wonders. It also showcases some heart-thumping adventures undertaken by the trio featured in the film: the real-life world-class mountaineer Conrad Anker, his stepson adventure photographer Max Lowe, and a friend, artist Rachel Pohl.
In one scene, they scale a seemingly sheer spire at Arches National Park in Utah; in another, they climb frozen waterfalls at Pictured Rocks National Seashore on Lake Superior in Michigan. There's also footage of whitewater rafting through the Colorado River's raging waters at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. In between, the trio is shown planning their trip, camping out and driving empty roads while a soundtrack plays songs ranging from the Lumineers to Bruce Springsteen.
The emphasis on adventure and not just beauty and history is a way of furthering the National Park Service's efforts to attract millennials. In remarks earlier this month, Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said that bringing more 18- to 35-year-olds to national parks is one of the centennial's goals, to "connect with the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates."
One of the film's most thrilling scenes shows mountain bikers in Moab, Utah, on a challenging trail called Slickrock at Bartlett Wash, on Bureau of Land Management property outside Arches National Park. The bikers zoom along sandstone precipices at breathtaking speeds and fly their bikes through the air. In one shot, a helmeted biker crashes but quickly recovers. The scene has attracted a bit of attention because the National Park Service only allows biking on roads and designated areas in parks. A regional spokesman for the park service, Rick Frost, said the agency was OK with the scene because Redford's narration "makes it clear that it's not taking place" inside national park boundaries.
The movie opens globally Friday, mostly with showings in museum theaters and science centers. It's directed by Greg MacGillivray and produced by Shaun MacGillivray in partnership with Brand USA, Expedia and Subaru. The filmmakers, working in five units, including an aerial crew and a time-lapse crew, shot nearly 15 hours of film for the 43-minute finished product.
The film cost $12.5 million to make and anticipated revenue is $6.6 million with the potential for more from ticket sales, according to Brand USA.