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The Loft Cinema to host ‘Science on Screen’ event

Brittan Bates

Astronomy professor Chris Impey in his office. Impey will be speaking at the “Science on Screen” event at The Loft Cinema on Tuesday.

The Loft Cinema’s fourth annual National Evening of Science on Screen kicks off this Tuesday evening, featuring astronomer, author and UA professor Chris Impey, who will be discussing the future of space travel. 

The film venue will follow with a showing of the movie “Forbidden Planet,” a 1956 science fiction classic.

“Forbidden Planet” was a game-changer for the science fiction genre, because it was the first film to take place on an entirely different planet, and to introduce an interactive robot character, visuals of “light speed” and electronic background music.

The plot consists of a team of space explorers who travel to a distant planet to search for survivors of a previous space expedition that lost contact. When the crew finds survivors, they are warned of the danger that exists on the foreign planet. The explorers continue their search and are faced with mysterious and life-threatening forces in uncharted territory. 

Impey said “Forbidden Planet” was the first big-budget Hollywood science fiction movie and $2 million to make.

“Before that, science fiction was a strictly low-budget, black-and-white genre,” Impey said. “There are themes of Shakespeare and Freud underlying the story. It also was a direct inspiration for Star Trek and Star Wars. The movie is a lot of fun.”

Jeff Yanc, program director at The Loft, said Impey has appeared at The Loft before.

“He’s a fantastic, engaging speaker, so we know he’ll be a great guest,” Yanc said. “Chris selected the film ‘Forbidden Planet,’ which will be very cool to watch on the big screen, as it’s a very beautiful, colorful film with ray guns, robots and alien life forms.”

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Impey is a University Distinguished Professor of Astronomy as well as an Associate Dean in the College of Science at UA. 

He has received $20 million in grants from NASA and the NSF to research topics such as cosmology and astrobiology, and he works to improve the science curriculum and technology at UA.

At the screening on Tuesday, Impey will discuss the reality of space travel and the possibilities that lie in the near future with advancing technologies, which are also the topics of his most recent book, “Beyond: Our Future In Space.” Copies of this book will be available for sale and for signing at The Loft Cinema.

“I hope to give people a sense that space is about to open up for regular people, not just astronauts,” Impey said. “Within a few decades, we’ll be living and working on Mars and we will have a future off Earth. Good science fiction movies can inspire that vision.”

RELATED: NASA reveals nearby planets that could support life

The Science on Screen series at The Loft Cinema was organized in order to engage audiences in thoughtful discussions on different topics in science, prompted by local experts.

“I think we’ll draw a wide cross-section of people to this event, as it will have appeal for people who love vintage sci-fi movies, people who love astronomy and science, and people who love Chris Impey,” Yanc said. “We also tend to draw audiences from the university population for these Science on Screen events, especially when the speaker is from the U of A, so the series helps to strengthen the ties between The Loft Cinema and the University of Arizona.”

Yanc said the Loft Cinema is a local nonprofit movie theater that hosts events such as Science on Screen in order to entertain and enlighten their audiences about real world events, which takes the movie viewing experience to the next level.

General admission tickets for this screening are priced at $9.50. Teachers and students who show their ID can purchase discounted tickets for $7.75.

For more information about this event, visit

Follow Kathleen Kunz on Twitter.

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