Monday, April 15, 2024

The animatronic dinosaur exhibit at VLM was a summer hit. Here’s why

A spitting dinosaur was one of the big draws this summer of the animatronic exhibit at the Virginia Living Museum. (HNNDAILY Photo/courtesy of Virginia Living Museum)
A spitting dinosaur was one of the big draws this summer of the animatronic exhibit at the Virginia Living Museum. (HNNDAILY Photo/courtesy of Virginia Living Museum)

NEWPORT NEWS — Dinosaurs have been extinct for millions of years, but the fascination with them lives on.

For one Newport News dinosaur exhibit, there was even an increase in attendance this summer.

The Virginia Living Museum has a permanent exhibit called the “Dinosaur Discovery Trail” along with an animatronic exhibit every other year.

The numbers for the latter exhibit, which runs from mid-May through Labor Day, were better than in 2016.

“We’re up 4 percent from two years ago, which is great,” Fred Farris, the senior director of exhibits at the museum, said of the animatronic exhibit. “I know a lot of places were down this summer. We’re happy with 4 percent, and it was steady all summer.”

The two biggest draws for the animatronic exhibit were the Dilophosaurus spitter, which was made famous in the “Jurassic Park” movie franchise, and Tyrannosaurus rex.

Farris said this was the first year in a long time the museum had a full-size T-Rex, and people were able to walk right up to it.

“That’s the trend we’re heading to. We’re going to be doing more of that in the future,” he said.

The Dilophosaurus, or spitters as they are sometimes called, have gotten somewhat of bad reputation.

“Scientists don’t really believe they spit, and even if they did spit, most likely it wasn’t poisonous, which is what it was in the movie,” Farris said. “But it helps our attendance so we put the spitters out there because that is what (people) expect.”

However, since the Virginia Living Museum also is focused on educating the public, there are signs explaining there is no evidence those dinosaurs spit, but it could have happened.

Even with that inconsistency, Farris said the movies are helpful.

“(Movie-goers) are seeing dinosaurs that are amazing animals and it brings them back to life on the screen,” he said. “It helps create the interest, and we can educate the folks about it from year to year.”

And as for the spitters at the Virginia Living Museum, it’s just water.

“In the summer, you can’t beat that,” Farris said.

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