It’s that thing to the left of Santa at Everett Mall.
The silver-and-black object shaped like an inflatable igloo.
What’s up with that?
A pop-up planetarium from Russia.
Friday’s arrival of the new attraction, called Planetarium 360, was promoted on social media as a UFO landing, complete with stellar images and a countdown. It was depicted as a fixed stadium with sleek projectors.
What landed at the mall is a polyester dome, 20 feet in diameter and 12 feet high. Inside are 20 reclining “zero gravity” lawn chairs splayed on the mall’s tile floor for watching a pixelated show on the seamed fabric sphere.
“It was made in Saint Petersburg,” said Planetarium 360 operations manager Cyril Dovhan. “It is popular there and all over Europe.”
Dovhan, 23, a Ukrainian who moved to Washington three years ago, got involved in the project when the Russian company contacted his Bellevue office for insurance for their pop-up. It will stay in Everett for two months before being deflated and taken by trailer to another mall.
Shows last about 30 minutes. Tickets, available online, are $15 for adults, $13 for youth and seniors, free for ages 4 and under.
The planetarium opened Black Friday to sold-out seats.
Missing was a popcorn machine to mask that new-inflatable smell. (People can bring their own snacks.)
Guests laid flat on the lawn chairs as starry images flashed around the curved ceiling. The movie’s scripted narrator expounded on matters such as the atmosphere of Jupiter and the death of stars, with music for emphasis.
Not even the crescendo of a galactic explosion was loud enough to drown out the chatter of shoppers and Santa’s “Ho Ho Ho.”
“The seats were amazing,” said Bruce Bowen, 9, of Sedro-Woolley. “It would be way better with popcorn.”
The boy enjoyed the show, even though it was no “Star Wars.”
So did his grandfather Eric Crawford of Lake Stevens, despite a few wrinkles.
“I couldn’t get over the wrinkles in the ceiling,” Crawford said. “Well, it was better than driving to Seattle.”
“It’s a small-town planetarium,” said Laura Stocker, the boy’s grandmother by proxy. “It’s a good introduction for kids.”
Dovhan said the opening day’s movie, which was more educational than entertaining, has been changed to a flick about Mars exploration.
“People are expecting more action,” he said. “We’re still doing some adjustments to the shows. The first day, it didn’t work that perfectly.”
Some online reviews have termed it “a bouncy house with a screen” and a “tent and a projector.” Another said: “Graphics not the best, but interesting.”
Want sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat graphics?
Go to the virtual reality kiosk that’s on the right side of Santa and put on the VR headset goggles for stunning images. The four-seat VR immersion, where guests choose from action games and movies, is another new mall $15 experience by a different company.
Neither, of course, is a match for the exhilaration of Santa, whose photos will set you back more than a journey into space.
David Penhollow, mall leasing manager, said the planetarium and VR kiosk are part of a push to add entertainment to the shopping center that changed ownership in 2017, the same year Macy’s closed.
“What we are envisioning is making this a retail-entertainment type mall. So people can come here more as a destination,” Penhollow said.
“With all the online competition that we have it’s nice to have an alternative to doing strictly retail. Our next step is to try to get an escape room.”
Planetarium 360 will be at the mall until Jan. 23.
If nothing else, you can get a much needed 30-minute holiday nap.