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Press Box

“CORAL REEF ADVENTURE” Sets Sail on a Voyage of Discovery Through South Pacific’s Awe-Inspiring and Endangered Reefs

Opens March 7, 2003 at the Blockbuster IMAX® Theater

A New IMAX® Theatre Film From The Academy Award®-Nominated Producers of Dolphins and Everest Brings Reef’s Wonders and Urgent Message of Peril to Life Five Stories Tall. Featuring songs written & recorded by Crosby, Stills & Nash and narrated by
Liam Neeson.




A silvery wall of sharks darts around the corner straight at you. Turning, you find yourself in a dazzling marine metropolis, a kaleidoscopic realm of tiny life forms living hundreds of feet below the surface in peaceful partnerships. An octopus hides in plain sight among the corals, perfectly camouflaged, while a lionfish waves its feathery, but poisonous, spines. Suddenly, a 300-pound potato cod, feeling threatened, changes its spots right before your eyes. And meanwhile, a cleaner shrimp, wiggling its tiny antennae, swims boldly towards your mouth looking for dinner between your teeth.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida – December 23, 2002
Welcome to a world unlike any other, a world that has been called the 'soul of the sea.' This is life on a coral reef – where some of the planet’s most diverse, fascinating and mysterious landscapes and creatures exist hidden from our sight. It is a world few human beings will ever experience up close, yet one that helps sustain the very balance of life on earth, and one that might contain unforeseen solutions to human medical problems. Only now it is under siege.

The story of the reefs and how they’ve come to face worldwide decline is brought to life seven stories tall in Coral Reef Adventure, an all-new IMAX theatre experience that takes audiences on a fantastic voyage of discovery to the South Pacific’s reefs, revealing both their remarkable contribution to life on earth and the imminent dangers they are facing right now.

Following husband and wife cinematography team Howard and Michele Hall on a 10-month quest across the Pacific Ocean – during which they attempt to create a lasting cinematic record of the reefs as they exist today – the film captures unprecedented, mesmerizing underwater images of beauty as well as sobering images of reefs in decline. In vivid detail, the giant screen adventure reveals the vast array of unusual creatures that inhabit the reefs; introduces everyday heroes hoping to help save the reefs; and teams up with scientists exploring the reefs for clues about their health and for never-before-seen species that are adding to what we know about life on earth. Using innovative and groundbreaking techniques, the filmmakers also plunge to daring and record-breaking depths, taking the notoriously cumbersome IMAX camera deeper in the open ocean than any diver has ever taken it before.

Found in more than 100 countries around the world in sun-drenched waters in the tropics, coral reefs comprise just one percent of the ocean yet nurture one quarter of all marine life. Coral reefs are the underwater equivalent of tropical rainforests, rivaling and at times exceeding the diversity of broad kinds of organisms in their terrestrial counterparts. Built over hundreds of thousands of years by tiny coral animals, a reef is a metropolis in miniature, providing services to countless species, including humans.

Over 350 million people depend on reefs for food and survival while medicines derived from reef species treat heart disease and cancers, among other illnesses. Coral buffers entire nations and anchor a multi-billion-dollar tourist economy. They even help to make better waves for surfing. In fact, the reefs are part of an ocean system that helps stabilize our climate, making the rain that feeds our crops and oxygenating the very air we breathe.

But more than a science lesson in reef biology, Coral Reef Adventure is an inspiring personal tale of courage and hope, the story of ordinary men and women seeking to make a difference to the planet’s most vulnerable environments. As the Halls journey across the Pacific, they discover oceans of hope in a growing global effort – an effort that crosses borders and cultures – to protect and sustain reefs for future generations. They discover a team of Reef Check volunteers in Tahiti who are learning how to monitor and protect their own local reefs.

Reef Check, a non-profit organization dedicated to globally monitoring coral reefs and finding sustainable solutions for reversing their decline, is spreading this knowledge to its partners throughout the world. Coral reefs thrive on symbiosis – a word that literally means 'living together' – and a similar spirit of partnership drives the Halls on their Coral Reef Adventure. Melding the story of the reefs with that of the Halls’ impassioned quest to bring worldwide attention to the plight of the reefs, the film mixes art and real life, science and entertainment.

As a result, it is not only one of the most technically advanced underwater films ever made, it is also a rare portrait of the demanding and daring creative process by which underwater movies are made at all.

Coral Reef Adventure is the latest IMAX theatre film from MacGillivray Freeman Films, the Academy Award-nominated producers of Dolphins and The Living Sea and the highest grossing documentary and large-format film in history, Everest, who specialize in bringing back visceral, larger-than-life stories from the world’s most remote environments. A labor of love for long-time ocean enthusiast and surfer Greg MacGillivray, the film’s director and producer, Coral Reef Adventure is the third in his series of ocean-themed films. “I have a mission to relate to the world the importance of the ocean to all of us on land,” noted MacGillivray. “In that regard, I have committed my company to funding and producing at least six IMAX theatre films that share my love of the sea.” Coral Reef Adventure was produced in association with the Museum of Science in Boston, the National Wildlife Federation, Lowell, Blake and Associates, and the Museum Film Network, and with major funding from the National Science Foundation. MacGillivray Freeman Films itself funded 75% of the film.

Four years in the making, the genesis of Coral Reef Adventure began with the sounding of an alarm. For more than two decades, celebrated underwater cinematographers Howard and Michele Hall had used their cameras to explore the magic of reefs and other ocean environments. They fell in love with a world where the nooks and crannies of jagged coral shelter a multi-colored carnival of life. But, suddenly, the long-time partners began witnessing an unsettling phenomenon: the decline of corals in their favorite places worldwide and the sight of once vibrant reefs being drained of their color, left bleached and ailing. They learned that over-fishing, coastal development and rising sea temperatures caused by global warming are decimating sensitive corals and shredding the web of life they support.

According to Reef Check and the United Nations’ Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, 10% of the world’s reefs died in the past 4 years and nearly a quarter are suffering. More than half of the remaining reefs are seriously threatened, and scientists estimate that if today’s trends continue, corals may vanish entirely within the next 40 years.

The Halls voiced their concerns to producer/director Greg MacGillivray who had approached the Halls about collaborating on a film about coral reefs. Adding further urgency to their sense of mission was the story of Rusi Vulakoro—a native Fijian distressed at watching his once beloved childhood reefs turn into empty ghost towns. Stirred to action by Rusi’s story and by what they had seen with their own eyes, the Halls and MacGillivray set out to document in IMAX what was happening to coral reefs. Using the awesome scope, visual power and incredible detail of the large-screen format, the entire production team dedicated itself to creating a film that would give audiences the visceral experience of an underwater adventure while inspiring in them a new love for the world’s coral reefs.

The Halls and their crew embarked on a 10-month “detective” trip with IMAX camera in tow, looking for signs of the reefs’ decline and survival in such exotic realms as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the deep waters off of Fiji, volcanic Tahiti and Moorea and the mysterious Rangiroa atoll. Traveling in the company of marine scientists including deep-reef ichthyologist Richard Pyle and marine conservation leader Jean-Michel Cousteau, the Halls made thrilling and unexpected discoveries and endured daunting personal risk, all while seeking out local perspectives on the reefs as they journeyed from island to island. Their adventures and discoveries, along with the story of the coral reefs, form the heart of Coral Reef Adventure.

“Our film was born out of passion for the world’s oceans,” says Greg MacGillivray. “Howard and Michele have taken the IMAX camera into these underwater worlds so audiences will experience these far-off, magical places that nevertheless are absolutely vital to our survival as a species. Lucky for us, Howard and Michele were uniquely suited for the risky logistics of filming in this extreme environment. Their story is one not only of great human adventure, but of real hope for the future of coral reefs.”

MacGillivray hopes that audiences seeing Coral Reef Adventure will fall in love with the reefs just as he and divers all around the world have. And while the film ventures off to far-away locations, MacGillivray also hopes it will bring attention to the endangered reefs closer to home in the U.S. He says: “Everyone involved in this film shared the same goal: to make Coral Reef Adventure an exciting, emotional film that will open many people’s eyes to the severe and complex stresses which threaten corals – and open their hearts to the beauty of the reefs, so that they may understand, as never before, the absolute and urgent need to find sustainable means of preserving them.”

“We all have a stake in the future survival of coral reefs, not just those who live near them,” explains Dr. Gregor Hodgson, Professor at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Director of Reef Check. “For someone living in Kansas with cancer, a rare coral reef sponge may hold the secret to the cure he needs to survive.”

Other than dedicated divers, most people have never had a chance to explore a coral reef, let alone learn about their incredible potential to sustain and enhance life. While most land surfaces on earth have been extensively mapped and explored, only 10% of the known reefs in the Pacific Ocean have even been visited by scientists. So Howard and Michele Hall had their work cut out for them in Coral Reef Adventure.

Their journey begins in the flourishing nationally protected Great Barrier Reef of Australia, the largest natural architectural structure on earth, which can be seen even from the moon. Here images of giant Potato Cod (grouper) pausing to allow small Cleaner Wrasse to give them a teeth-cleaning indicate how reef species thrive in close partnerships when their habitat is protected by law. The Halls would use these teeming, impressively healthy reefs as a benchmark for observing reefs in other locations. Concerned for what might be happening to other, less-protected reefs in the Pacific, the Halls set sail for Fiji, 2000 miles away.

Amidst swaying palms and turquoise lagoons, the Halls reunite with their friend Rusi Vulakoro, who offers a whale’s tooth to his village elders in a ceremony to obtain permission for the Halls to dive the local reefs. In accordance with Fijian culture, which has long focused its fairy tales and myths on the sea, access to Fiji’s reefs is controlled by local villages and many soft corals are flourishing. But the Halls also discover that parts of Rusi’s reef are indeed eerily dead. And here, bleaching is only one part of the problem.

The Halls learn that adding further stress to the reefs are sediments from logging and agriculture that are literally choking the sensitive corals, and overfishing by local fisherman trying to feed their families. As reef scientist Richard Pyle explains: “Amazingly, the corals can often fight off one threat, but three-at-a-time is more than even they can handle.”

Looking for further explanation, the Halls meet up with renowned conservationist Jean-Michel Cousteau, who, in continuing the Cousteau legacy, has come to Fiji as a passionate advocate for stewarding healthy coral environments. “Coral reefs are the canary in the coal mine, and the canary is now sick and dying,” warns Cousteau. “When coral reefs suffer, it is a sign there is something seriously wrong with the natural balance of our planet. The world has got to wake up and take dramatic action to stop this trend before it is too late.”

Cousteau is doing just that in Fiji – introducing a new generation of children to the wonders of the reefs and the importance of respecting and caring for them. In Coral Reef Adventure, we watch as Cousteau leads a joyous group of Fijian children on their first snorkeling adventure to their hometown reefs.

It is here in Fiji where the Halls also endure their greatest test – a series of dangerous deep dives to depths over 350 feet into realms where standard SCUBA equipment is inadequate to support a diver and high-tech mixed-gas closed-circuit rebreathers are required. For this leg of the journey the Halls are joined by deep reef scientist and deep diving pioneer, Richard Pyle. Pyle’s specialty is studying fish and other species found on the deep reefs located at depths greater than 200 feet – a seldom-visited realm that Pyle has dubbed “the Twilight Zone.” Millions of new species remain to be discovered at these depths, and Pyle is leading the charge to uncover their mysteries. “We can’t know if something is extinct if we never knew it existed in the first place,” says Pyle. “It is only by understanding all parts of the reef and how they work together that we can ever fully understand it at all.”

To bring these dramatic stories of the reef up to the surface, the filmmakers of Coral Reef Adventure faced many extreme challenges and underwater dangers. Submerging cameras to a realm where hammerheads circle and where water pressure can crush machinery as if it was a balloon required both consistent courage and constant invention on the part of the filmmakers. “This film is one of the most technically complex underwater films ever made,” says Howard Hall, who also served as the film’s Underwater Director of Photography. “Taking a 250-pound IMAX camera, along with lights and other necessary equipment, to depths of 350 feet pushed the envelope way beyond the usual difficulties of filming under the sea. It was some of the most strenuous and demanding filming I’ve ever been involved with. But it is also this technology that makes it possible to truly show how marvelous the reefs are and to reveal how very much we stand to lose without them.”

Howard Hall’s mission was to film Richard Pyle as he searches for and discovers new fish species on the deep reefs. To do this, he must use specially designed camera equipment created to withstand the extreme pressures – nearly twelve times greater than sea level – at these depths. Despite frequent equipment failures and occasional flooded cameras, all went reasonably well until one dive when Howard’s underwater communication system failed, causing him to become distracted and forget to turn an important switch on his rebreather, which regulates the gas mixture Howard is breathing.

Combined with the incredible physical exertion necessary to film at such depths, the error caused Howard to develop a life-threatening case of decompression sickness, or what divers call “the bends.” After spending eight hours underwater trying to decompress, Howard was rushed to the town of Suva where he spent eighteen hours in Fiji’s only hyperbaric chamber, a critical move that likely saved his life. The expedition was shut down for weeks as Hall recovered, and the filmmakers struggled with whether or not to go on. But Hall courageously returned to the film more committed than ever, diving back to 370 feet – a new record for a diver using an IMAX camera in the open ocean – and capturing in vivid detail Pyle’s thrilling discovery of a new fish species previously unknown to science.

After the harrowing experience of the deep dives, the Halls looked forward to reaching their final destination – the volcanic paradise of Tahiti and the deep underwater canyons off the Rangiroa atoll. Here, the Halls participate in a local reef survey and learn how to report their findings back to Reef Check scientists, an important step in monitoring the health of reefs worldwide.

In Rangiroa, the crew’s main mission is to search for the huge schools of sharks that were said to roam these reefs. An impressive 90% of Rangiroa’s reefs are flourishing, all except for the few that are close to human populations, revealing just how closely tied the reefs’ fate is to human presence. After weeks of searching, Howard and the film crew finally locate the sharks – a school of over three hundred who appeared to be mating. They take it as a sign of hope and renewal that the reefs continue to sustain such an abundance of marine life.

As Howard Hall summarizes: “Coral reefs thrive on partnerships and one of the most important partnerships right now is that between humans and the sea. The more people learn about the great impact we have on these often unseen but always vital underwater communities, the harder I think we’ll see people trying to live in better harmony with the reefs.”

“Making this film was a true adventure,” says Michele Hall. “There were some gut-wrenching moments along the way but the result is some of our most spectacular footage. Our dive team as a whole logged 2,421 dives and 2,800 hours in the water, and over 100 miles of 70mm film was shot above and underwater, a new record for an IMAX theatre film. And what’s fun about the film is that audiences get a chance to witness both the thrill of discovery and the challenges we faced in capturing these images.”

Sums up Greg MacGillivray: “While few people on earth will ever experience the intense challenges and rewards of ocean exploration, Coral Reef Adventure opens up this world of unprecedented beauty and great scientific importance to everyone. The result is a rare glimpse at what we could lose – and also an exciting reminder that maintaining a sustainable relationship with nature is in all of our hands.”


Coral Reef Adventure is sponsored locally by Maroone, an AutoNation company.

For more information about the film or the Halls, please visit ,  and . IMAX® is a registered trademark of IMAX Corporation. Academy Award® is a registered trademark of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.


The mission of the Museum of Discovery and Science is to promote and increase the understanding and appreciation of science in children and adults through entertaining interaction with educational exhibits, programs and films. Founded in 1976 as The Discovery Center, the nonprofit facility serves approximately 400,000 visitors each year.

The Museum is open seven days per week, Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6:00 p.m. with extended IMAX hours on Friday and Saturday evenings (closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day). General admission prices are $14.00 for adults; $13.00 for seniors and students; $12.00 for children 3 to 12. Children under 3 are free. A General Admission Ticket includes admission to the Museum exhibits and one IMAX® film. The Museum of Discovery and Science is located downtown at 401 SW Second Street, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33312. For more information about the Museum, visitors should call (954) 467-MODS (6637).


The Blockbuster® IMAX®Theater owned and operated by the Museum of Discovery and Science, opened in 1992. The 300-seat theater is a showcase of state-of-the-art motion picture technology. The Blockbuster® IMAX®Theater features a 60-ft. x 80 ft. screen and a 15,000 watt digital sound system that delivers six discrete channels of clear sound through 42 speakers. The IMAX® projector’s 15,000 watt Xenon bulb projects images of unsurpassed brilliance and clarity onto the five-story-high screen. Both 2D and 3D films are shown in the theater. 3D films are viewed using electronic headsets. The IMAX® experience is an unparalleled fusion of sight and sound. For show times, visitors should call 954-463-IMAX (4629).

Media Contacts: Marlene Janetos 954-713-0915
Theresa Waldron 954-713-0901

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