Oh, Canada

You read it here first. The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past few weeks, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration. The re-election of President Bush has prompted the exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray and agree with Bill O'Reilly. And, somehow, books such as The Handmaid's Tale by Canadian author Margaret Atwood will be banned. Terrified sources say Dubya hasn't really read a book since he read the one about the little goat on September 11, 2001. If that's true, and he never read Atwood's horrifying tale about the religious right and America's possible future, then Atwood, besides being Canadian, could be eerily prescient.

Why we love Canada, and why it is perennially our fantasy escape in times of trouble--the draft, the draft, the Neo-Conservatives, the draft--is easy to explain. Canadians--peace-loving, enlightened, humane, polite--invented the IMAX movie. It started at Montreal's EXPO '67, where an exhibit of multiscreen films was a huge hit. A small group of Canadian filmmakers/entrepreneurs, who had made some of those popular films, decided to design a new system using a single, powerful projector, rather than cumbersome multiple projectors. The IMAX motion picture projection system was the result. If Bush's second term does eventually mandate prayer, say a special one for the original creative partnership--Grahame Ferguson, Roman Kroltor and Robert Kerr. All Canadians. All the time.

Meanwhile, take a break from holiday hoo-ha this week and see some stunning IMAX films on screens around Dallas. Another historical tidbit: Roughly 50 percent of IMAX theaters are located within museums, planetariums and science centers; the other half are part of commercial movie complexes. And one more thing--the United States has 60 percent of worldwide IMAX venues. Dallas-Fort Worth seems to mirror precisely that statistic, with two IMAX theaters in museums and one in the hulking Cinemark complex, 11819 Webb Chapel Road.

Cinemark is showing The Polar Express, a retelling of the children's book starring Tom Hanks human-imated as several of the main characters, on its IMAX screen. It also will show Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag, a Top Gun clone about training the world's best pilots in the Nevada desert before they are sent into actual combat, which opens Friday. Tickets are $9 per adult, $8 per senior and $7 per child. Hear the recording or reach the office at 972-888-2629.

At the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History's OMNI Theater, catch Santa vs. the Snowman, a critically acclaimed television special created by Dallas animation gurus/creators of Jimmy Neutron Keith Alcorn and John Davis at DNA Productions. Non-holiday fare includes Sacred Planet, Lewis and Clark and Solar Max. These history- and science-loaded movies feature breathtaking views of the sun, solar system and the earth--including routes along the explorers' journey west. Solar Max offers an unusual peek, 92 million miles away, at the "solarmax" storm, which occurs every 11 years or so, when the sun's poles reverse with "unimaginable violence." Click on www.fortworthmuseum.com for various show times for weekdays and weekends. Admission to the theater only is $7 for adults or $6 for seniors and children. The museum's "combo price" for theater and museum exhibits is $13 for adults or $11 for seniors and children. Located at 1501 Montgomery St. in Fort Worth's Cultural District, the FWMSH offers tickets and information at 817-255-9300 or 1-888-255-9300.

Dallas' The Science Place presents Horses: The Story of Equus in a dramatic, artful and scientific IMAX film about "the noblest animal of them all." Underwater drama and swimming animals can be seen in Into the Deep, which ends this week with Sunday showings at 1:45 p.m. and 3:55 p.m. Opening Saturday is Titanica, the adventurous, dangerous and dramatic nonfiction film that follows the deep-sea explorers who found the Titanic shipwreck in 1991. The Science Place, at 1318 Second Ave., sells IMAX tickets by phone (214-428-5555) or online ([email protected]). Admission is $7 per adult and $6 per senior and child.

In Canada, we imagine there's an IMAX on every corner, with homemade French pastries, astonishing blends of hot tea and crumpets, gay marriage and a great swelling of tolerance and love for all its American neighbors. Save for one.

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Annabelle Massey Helber