Get ready for 'Ben Hur—The Stadium Spectacular'

Columns

The worldwide popularity of films is such that they have a life long after their initial release. DVD sales and TV screenings continue for decades. Films have also been adapted into games, Broadway musicals, ice spectaculars, comic books and much more.

Now preparing to tour the major arenas of the world is Ben Hur—The Stadium Spectacular, an event that has been described as a combination of the 1959 William Wyler Oscar winner and the Olympics opening ceremony. The Charlton Heston starrer was redeveloped for this event in France and presented for five nights in Paris in 2006.

The stadium adaptation was crafted by renowned French director Robert Hossein and produced by Stadefrance Live Events. The performance features a live chariot race with 32 horses and eight chariots, a giant Roman galleon, and a grand stage which will transform Sydney's Olympic Stadium (now known as ANZ Stadium) into a huge Roman amphitheatre. It has a cast of 217 and a crew of around 200 and will kick off a world tour with performances in Sydney on Oct. 22 and 23. These are the only stagings in 2010. Ben Hur will tour elsewhere in 2011. More details and photos can be seen at www.benhur.com.au.

***
The State Theatre in Sydney is the only remaining single-screen cinema in the city. The wonderful art deco building was constructed in 1929 by Amalgamated Holdings (Greater Union) and has always been owned by them. Amalgamated has many of their offices on the higher levels of the building above the cinema. The cinema no longer shows first-release films and is mainly used for film festivals, film premieres and as a concert venue.
Amalgamated recently acquired the building next-door and plan to redevelop the upper levels of the State Theatre and the new building into a boutique hotel. The company recently filed a development application with the City of Sydney to turn the loftier floors of the two buildings into a 196-room ''New York or Venice''-style hotel, restaurant and day spa. Guests will enter via the art deco palatial lobby of the State Theatre, with a reception area on level one and rooms on levels three to 10 and four to 11 of the adjacent building. The State Theatre will remain in its current form and will stay open throughout construction. The façades of both buildings will be restored and details such as gargoyles that have been damaged or removed over the years will be replaced.

***
There was a strong possibility that The Hurt Locker would not get a cinema release in Australia. The Iraq war film Stop Loss went straight to video here. The indecision meant that the release was delayed and The Hurt Locker opened at the best possible time Down Under, two weeks before the Academy Awards. This has given the film a box office approaching A$5 million as it continues in the top 10. This is equivalent to a US$50 million release, much better than the film did in North America.

***
The 2010 Australian Exhibitors Movie Convention will take place on the Gold Coast August 15-18. International delegates are welcome. Full details are available at www.movieconvention.com.au.

E-mail your Australia/New Zealand news items to David Pearce at insidemovies@hotmail.com.