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National Geographic and Smithsonian Form Strategic Alliance


Written by: National Geographic Television/Smithsonian Institution
Date: March 22, 2001

First Production Celebrates the Centennial of Flight in Partnership with Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village


Category: Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C.--(ENTERTAINMENT WIRE)--March 22, 2001--National Geographic and the Smithsonian Institution today announced a strategic alliance to produce and distribute large-format films.

The first will be a co-production of National Geographic Television, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the Dearborn, Mich.-based Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village.

The film (with the working title ``Celebration of Flight'') will commemorate the centennial of powered flight by bringing to life the aviation legacy of the Wright Brothers and the Kitty Hawk Flyer, the key aviation milestones of the last century, and the prospects for flight far into the future.

``Celebration of Flight'' combines the extraordinary historical resources and aviation expertise of three of the country's premier scientific, educational and entertainment institutions with the proven production and storytelling excellence of National Geographic.

In making the announcement, Rick Allen, President of National Geographic Ventures, stated: ``This project is the perfect way to inaugurate our new strategic alliance. The Smithsonian and National Geographic have shared a mission of exploration and education for more than a century, and Henry Ford Museum has received global recognition for turning milestones of innovation and history into captivating experiences. Three 'top guns' combine forces to celebrate the 100th anniversary of flight with the release of a standard-setting large-format flight film.''

Gary Beer, CEO, Smithsonian Business Ventures, said: ``National Geographicis a natural alliance for the Smithsonian in producing a film of thismagnitude and importance. Since producing `To Fly!' in 1976, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum has been a pioneer in large-format filmmaking. `Celebration of Flight' is planned as the signature film for National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport, which expects to open in 2003. Smithsonian and National Geographic have vast marketing and membership assets which will help support the distribution of the new film. Together with Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village, we will marshal deep archival resources, the aviation industry's top experts, a true historical perspective and the world's best filmmakers to create an enthralling, definitive big screen film on flight.''

``We're very proud to be involved in this high-energy and faithful account of the people and events that forever changed the way we live,'' said Steve Hamp, President of Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village. ``The film will not only impart important information about our aviation history, it will also serve to ignite the imaginations of formidable young minds and impact the inventors and dreamers of tomorrow.''

According to terms of the venture, which call for full collaboration among the three institutions, National Geographic Films will serve as the production entity for the film, with lead responsibility for creative and budgetary aspects of the project. National Geographic's large-format film senior executive, Lisa Truitt, will serve as the film's Executive Producer and will be aided by a special advisory board chaired by General John Dailey, Director of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, and including the parties' own -- as well as outside -- aviation experts. With research and script development already under way, the producers plan to debut the film in conjunction with year-long celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' 1903 flight. In addition to the large-format film, the production partners will create complementary educational materials to support the film's historical and aviation information.

National Geographic dominated the U.S. box office with its first foray into the large-format arena: ``Mysteries of Egypt,'' one of the most successful films in the medium's history, and 1999's box office champ among all films (large format or standard feature) on a per screen basis (source: Variety). The film, released in 1999, starred legendary actor Omar Sharif, and led audiences on an enchanting journey through the tombs, treasures and tales of ancient Egypt. National Geographic's second large-format film, ``Lewis and Clark,'' is currently in production and will hit theaters in Spring 2002.

In the past 24 years, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum has presented nine large-format productions, with the premiere of ``To Fly!'' in 1976. The Museum's Langley Theater features a five-story IMAX® screen and is the cornerstone to the Museum. The Museum's theater has become one of the most successful motion picture theaters in the world and has attracted and delighted more than 41 million movie-goers. ``To Fly!'' has become the highest-grossing documentary of all time and was selected for archival preservation by the U.S. Library of Congress. The Museum is also responsible for taking the first IMAX camera into space for the production of the successful space film trilogy, ``The Dream is Alive,'' ``Blue Planet'' and ``Destiny in Space.'' These three films have attracted more than 61 million people to IMAX theaters worldwide. In 1996, the Museum premiere of ``Cosmic Voyage'' received an Academy Award nomination.

Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village celebrates the spirit of innovation and resourcefulness in America. With holdings of more than one million objects and 26 million documents, prints and photographs, it is the largest indoor/outdoor historical complex in the world with 1.5 million visitors annually. For more information, go to

National Geographic Ventures manages the Society's television, film, interactive, online, merchandising, travel and related businesses. Building on its reputation for remarkable visuals and compelling stories, NGV's subsidiary, National Geographic Television, augments its award-winning documentary production (winner of over 100 Emmys and more than 800 other industry awards) with new prime time drama, large-format, and feature film programming, as well as international broadcast and video distribution. At present, NGT's programming can be seen in the U.S. on the new National Geographic Channel, CNBC and PBS as well as on home video and DVD, and internationally through video & DVD distribution and broadcast syndication in more than 100 different outlets in some 90 territories. The National Geographic Channel, a business enterprise of National Geographic Television (NGT) and Fox Cable Networks Group, recorded the industry's most successful recent U.S. launch on Jan. 7, 2001. Abroad, those partners are joined by NBC, and the National Geographic Channel reaches nearly 100 million households in 118 countries and in 18 languages. More information about NGT is available at

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum opened its doors to the public on July 1, 1976. Since then, the Museum has attracted more than 220 million visitors, making it the most visited museum in the world. The Museum offers an awe-inspiring array of aviation and space artifacts that span the history of human flight. The visitors who enter the Museum through the Milestones of Flight Gallery are greeted by such treasures as the 1903 Wright Flyer, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, a touchable moon rock, and the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia. Highlights in the other 22 galleries span nearly a century of air and space development, achievements and exploration.

Smithsonian Business Ventures (SBV) manages all business activities of the world's largest museum complex, encompassing both Smithsonian and Air and Space magazines, 22 museum stores, 10 museum restaurants, and two IMAX theaters. SBV also includes Smithsonian mail order catalog and all Institution-wide licensing, marketing, e-commerce, and media enterprises. More information about SBV and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is available at



National Geographic Television
Ellen Stanley, 202/775-6755
Smithsonian Institution
Mary Combs, 202/357-2627
Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village
Wendy Metros, 313/982-6125
Pryor & Associates
Jeff Pryor, 818/382-2233

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