November 9, 2009 / 10:11 PM / 9 years ago

New Orleans' exhibit offers sights, sounds of WWII

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters Life!) - A new film theater at the National World War II museum is hoping to lure visitors with a film produced by actor Tom Hanks that features the sights and sounds of battle.

World War II veterans are applauded as they walk the red carpet during opening ceremonies for the Solomon Victory Theater at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans in this publicity photo taken November 6, 2009, and released to Reuters on November 9, 2009. REUTERS/National World War II Museum/Handout

“Beyond All Boundaries,” which premiered at the museum on Saturday, inaugurated the new Solomon Victory Theater. The film recalls the winter fighting of the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest.

As archival footage unfolded on a 120-foot (36.5 meter) screen, the theater’s seats vibrated when German Tiger tanks stormed across the deserts of North Africa. Smoke filled the air as bomber planes made hits and snow fell on the audience, recalling the frigid winter conditions.

“We wanted to create a one-of-a-kind sensory experience that would engage all the senses,” Hanks, the executive producer, told the audience.

“We had the opportunity to do what good entertainment does, and what fine telling of history does, at its best,” he said, adding that the film’s makers wanted to present a story younger audiences could understand.

Actors Brad Pitt, Kevin Bacon, Elijah Wood and Tobey Maguire also read from diaries written by soldiers and journalists during the movie.

Founded by author-historian Stephen Ambrose and his colleague, historian Nick Mueller, the museum is a key tourist attraction in New Orleans. It has been designated by Congress as the country’s official museum of the Second World War.

Dedicated in 2000 with a focus on the D-Day Invasion, it was one of the first major tourist sites to reopen after the city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw hosted the museum’s initial opening and returned to dedicate the new expansion.

Along with the 250-seat theater, the $60 million addition houses the Stage-Door Canteen which offers a 1940s-style live musical revue amid decor.

During the dedication, hundreds of veterans mingled with museum donors and guests that included former Sen. George McGovern, whose exploits as a B-24 bomber pilot during the war were a subject of Ambrose’s 2001 book “The Wild Blue.”

“This museum is not in the business of glorifying war,” McGovern said. “It should cause all of us to continue working for peace in the world.”

Editing by Chris Baltimore and Bob Tourtellotte

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