Iron Range planetarium in danger

I neglected to mention that a community meeting will take place in Hibbing tonight at 6 to discuss the possible fate of the Paulucci Space Theater, until recently the largest planetarium in Minnesota. The place has been a longstanding favorite for Iron Range school kids in the months of April and May as it displayed the night sky, educational programming and the super wide format movies that necessitate a helicopter to shoot. It’s also been a tourism attraction for the city, but has struggled in recent months.

Hibbing Community College (disclosure: my primary employer) runs the planetarium and, because of both present and future state budget cuts, will no longer be able to fund the planetarium in its current capacity. The meeting tonight will invite citizens and organizations to share possible solutions, other funding sources or any creative idea to use the space in an educational/community-focused way. Lacking solutions, the planetarium will otherwise close. If you have an idea, stop on by or contact the college for more information.


  1. This bums me out.

    My idea: Could the theater start showing 3D movies? The only reason I mention this is because the only theater in Northern Minnesota capable of doing 3D is in Duluth. When Avatar came out, my friends and I got turned away at the door because they sold out of tickets. There’s a high demand for 3D movies out there, and studios only seem to be pumping out more of them. You’d give Hibbingites a reason to keep coming back with new content every month or so.

    Could you maybe mention that one tonight? I have no idea the cost of said movies, but I know I would sure love to have a first date there.

  2. I second the 3D.

    What level of funding drop is required? Are you talking “no money for staff, but money for maintenance,” or “no money for anything,” or…

  3. @Matt –
    Am I right in reading this as “The planetarium must be saved so that Matt Nelson may date again.” If so I’ve never been more in favor of this than I am now. 🙂 But seriously folks (segue) the issue is the massive budget cut that is anticipated over the next two years. Arguing politics over how that budget cut happened is largely a tardy discussion, as the cut will occur regardless. MNSCU is asking that all functions not essential to the college mission (teaching and workforce development) be cut before “extra” functions, such as the cultural and community resource of the planetarium. The solution will involve others getting involved, either in a lease, a shared operation or purchase of the planetarium.

    What you’re describing probably could only be delivered by a private company willing to make the investment in first-run 3D films. They’d need to sell out every night, though, as the seating at the planetarium is somewhat limited due to the shape and previous function of the building. I agree, though, such an outcome would probably put the most bodies in the seats and keep it open. Sky shows and education programs by weekday, feature films by night and weekend. Such a plan would need an investor and operator.

  4. These folks:

    run this:


    I don’t know how fast you need someone to act, because nonprofits move slowly, but an argument could be made that running the planetarium as an art-house/local/quirky theatre would be both within their mission and something that could be done affordably based on an economy of scale (as in — a movie runs here for two weeks, Hibbing for one).

  5. David – This is a fantastic lead. You’re right; nothing happens overnight. But we do have about a year of lead time before dramatic changes must happen here. I’ll forward this information to our bosses.


  6. I would hate to see Hibbing lose this. What about another entity taking it over with IRRRB funds? Or making it another feature of Ironw…err..the Minnesota Discovery Center, (god that name blows!). Its one of those things that makes Hibbing such a unique and great place to live.

  7. Maybe, just maybe, this planetarium is under advertised. The first I ever heard of it was when my kids were in preschool and the teacher arranged a trip there, 40 mile drive. The child I went with is now married, with two kids, so that was a long time ago. I went two or three times with the kids. They may have gone with their school classes, but I sure don’t remember that. Aside from tourist brochures for Hibbing, I haven’t seen it advertised on the mid and east and north end of the Range.

    BTW, the last time I went there, there was the star show and some other show that was supposed to be like the Omni Theater, but it was not made for the planetarium, so it was out of focus, so out of focus that I had to shut my eyes to keep from feeling sick.

    I’m not one to just judge something by past performances, but, hey, the Planetarium hasn’t brought itself to my attention by advertising so that I even think about going there.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.