Madame Tussauds are to close the world famous London Planetarium and replace the spectacle with a show about celebrities.
The star theatre in Baker Street has been renamed the Auditorium and shows for schools have already ended.
A spokesman confirmed yesterday that from July there will be no more “stars and planets”.
But the move has provoked a storm of protest from schools, astronomers and Tussauds’ own former education officer.
The entertainment group is accused of abandoning its 50-year role in revealing the wonders of the night sky.
Schools writing to complain have been told that the company wants to focus on the world of celebrities and fame.
Tussauds’ former education officer, Teresa Grafton, who retired at the end of last year, said yesterday: “I hugely regret that the London Planetarium is no more and no more children will feel the magic of getting to know our universe.
“The whole thing now is to do with celebrity culture.
“Shows that used to last up to 45 minutes have long gone. Yet I found the children were never short of questions when they came to the Planetarium.”
Robin Scagell, vice-president of the UK’s Society for Popular Astronomy, said: “The Planetarium has inspired generations of schoolchildren and their parents and to lose it now is a tragedy.
“Tussauds should stay in touch with the community rather than just concentrating on celebs and footballers who will be forgotten in a year or two.
“The Planetarium always made money for Tussauds when it featured real astronomy shows.
“I’m amazed that the Tussauds management can’t come up with exciting and interesting shows about the wonders of the universe that will attract audiences again.
“They have a valuable resource that they are squandering through a lack of imagination.”
Tussauds’ marketing director Nicky Marsh said: “The future shows in the Planetarium space will be a filmic experience and have nothing to do with stars and planets.
“We’re working with Aardman Animations, the producers of Wallace and Gromit, to make a film about celebrity and fame. I can’t say any more about it than that but people just weren’t interested in attending the space shows.”
Tussauds’ communications manager Diane Moon said yesterday: “Over the past year only three in 10 of the people visiting the attraction have bothered to visit the Planetarium, even though it is included in the admission price.
“I do appreciate the importance of the Planetarium as a tool to learning but this is simply not the field within which our brand stands today.”
The green-domed London Planetarium was built in the 1950s. The Madame Tussauds waxworks began in 1802. Last year the group, which now operates attractions including Alton Towers, Chessington World of Adventures, the London Eye and Thorpe Park, was bought by Dubai International Capital for £800million.
© Paul Sutherland. Unauthorised reproduction forbidden.
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