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October 13, 2013

Creepy crawlies kick off new science and film series at the State Theatre

The State Theatre kicks off its second annual Science on Screen film and education series with the creepy, crawly world of spiders. The series screens movies relating to science and includes a short lecture and interactive exhibit before each showing. The first film was “Spider-Man” and featured an array of spiders on display and to touch.

Your friendly neighborhood spiders got a place in the spotlight to kick off the State Theatre’s second annual Science on Screen film series.

The program, which pairs films with the real science behind the scenes, opened Sunday afternoon with a showing of “Spider-Man.” The blockbuster film about a web-slinging superhero was preceded by an interactive display and lecture about the amazing powers of spiders.

The eight-legged arachnids were the main attraction in the downtown Modesto theater as more than a dozen living spiders were on display in the lobby and a few were even available to touch for the non-arachnophobes in attendance.

“I’m actually scared of spiders, but I just held a tarantula,” said Manteca resident Aubrie Barr, a student at Modesto Junior College who attended the event. “Normally I’d be freaking out. So that was a pretty big accomplishment.”

The Science on Screen series at the State is funded by a grant from the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and only given to 20 theaters across the country. This is the second consecutive year the Modesto theater has been granted the award.

“We’ve gone above and beyond each year, and this year we’re doing even more with the grant,” said State Theatre General Manager Sue Richardson. “This is such a wonderful and unique program.”

The grant requires that theaters show three films as part of a program with accompanying lectures and activities featuring experts from the world of science or medicine. Last year the State showed four films, and this year five are slated.

At the “Spider-Man” event, attendees could browse the exhibit before the show. More than a dozen live spiders – from garden spiders to black widows, brown recluses and tarantulas – were on display as well as an assortment of deceased specimens.

Modesto-based research scientist Bill Donahue, owner of Sierra Research Laboratories, brought in an assortment of live arthropods from spiders to centipedes and scorpions. He also gave a brief “spider crash course” talk before the movie, discussing their biology, behavior and more. He said he was happy to be part of the program and hoped the series helped get more people excited about the sciences.

“Just getting kids interested in science and telling parents there are real careers in the field is great,” Donahue said.

The Science on Screen program at the State continues Nov. 10 with the film “Another Earth” and an accompanying lecture on physics and parallel universes. The rest of the series will feature “Whale Rider” on Jan. 12, “The Blue Butterfly” on March 9 and “Physics & Fastballs: The Science of Baseball” on April 13. Tickets are $8 adults, $6 students. For more information, go to

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