Did you know that the largest film museum in the world is located just north of 798 Art District, that there’s a 4D cinema in the Olympic Village, and that the oldest cinema in China is in Qianmen? This month, our editors visited four movie theaters and film-centric museums to find the best of family-friendly cinematic Beijing. We also divised our own awards (see below) the best and worst feature of each venue.We will be posting all the reviews separately so be sure to catch them later on, first up is the China Science and Technology Museum 中国科技馆 . Happy exploring!
The 2008 party may have moved on, but China Science and Technology Museum (CSTM) continues to attract tourists to the Olympic Park area. Aside from the exhibitions, the museum also houses the self-explanatory “Huge-Screen Theater” and a state-of-the-art 4D cinema. In the latter, the fourth dimension refers to a combination of seat movements and other effects.
The abstract, interlocking shapes of the museum’s main building (and the huge metallic dome beside it) might look out of place were the CSTM not standing amidst the unusual structures of the Olympic Village. Depending on your taste, it could be seen as either a triumph of modernism or a dystopian nightmare. Either way, it is certainly very difficult to miss.
At almost 30m wide and 22m high, the display in the Huge-Screen Theater is only a few meters away from being the biggest in the world. When beijingkids visited, we had the best possible view of the gargantuan screen. On busier days, those at the front may get a sore neck (or miss some of the action). Nonetheless, it is a remarkable cinematic experience, made even more engrossing by a six-track surround sound system. While the 4D cinema cannot compete in terms of screen size, it is still big enough to accommodate around 200 people. The novelty here is the fourth “D.” Seats vibrate with the action, flashing lights simulate lightning, and puffs of air brush your head as 3D visuals appear to fly past viewers.
In addition, CSTM’s metallic dome houses a wraparound screen that acts as a virtual planetarium and shows short experiential films.
At the time of visiting, the Huge-Screen Theater was the only one showing English-language films, with two subtitled Hollywood blockbusters alongside domestic movies. Because of the additional effects, the 4D cinema plays specially-made films which, while not theatrical masterpieces, are designed to enhance the viewer’s sensory experience. We were reliably informed by one of our readers that films in English have been shown in 4D in the past.
The Huge-Screen Theater plays movies regularly through the weekdays, with more on weekends and evening screenings after the rest of the museum has closed. The 4D cinema can only be accessed when the exhibitions themselves are open, though there are six screenings a day during the week and eight each on Saturdays and Sundays.
Movie choices and screen times on the website were not up-to-date when we checked, so we recommend inquiring and booking in advance. There are English-speaking staff members and the website also recommends emailing email@example.com if you have trouble calling, though beijingkids did not receive a response to its online inquiry.
Despite the additional effects at the 4D cinema, it was designed for kids of all ages and adults alike. The fourth dimension is not too intense and we received a very positive review from a 5-year-old. At the Huge-Screen Theater, the only limitation for bringing the family will be individual film ratings. When we visited, none of the English-language films were suitable for under-13s.
When we visited, the snack stall at the Huge-Screen Theater was closed. Also, bear in mind that there are no snacks available at the 4D cinema so bring your own (assuming you can hold onto popcorn in the midst of all the movements and effects). As a next resort, there are plenty of reliable restaurants about ten minutes east of the museum on Datun Beilu (大屯北路), including the Sichuan flavors of Meizhou Xiaochi (眉州小吃) and pizzas from Papa John’s.
The location is a key part of the cinemas’ appeal. Given that they are housed inside a family-friendly museum, it makes a lot of sense to include a film screening into a longer day trip. The nearby Bird’s Nest and the water park at the National Aquatics Center (the Water Cube) can be built into an itinerary of sightseeing and activities with the kids.
How to Get There
Bus: 328, 379, 419, 484, 617, 628, 630, 751, 913, Yun Tong 110; Get off at Wali Nankou (洼里南口) bus stop.
Subway: Take the northeast exit at Olympic Green (Line 8), walk north for a couple of minutes and then turn right onto Datun Beilu (大屯北路) and you should see the museum’s huge silver dome.
Tue-Sun 9am-4.30pm (museum), but screenings at the Huge-Screen Theater run until after 10pm. 5 Beichen Donglu, Chaoyang District (5904 1188) www.cstm.org.cn 朝阳区朝阳区北辰东路5号
Photos by Oscar Holland
This article originally appeared on p64-65 of the beijingkids November 2013 issue.
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com