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British Museum announces first live cinema event ever produced by a museum
Satyr and maenads, marble wall panel, From the House of the Dionysiac Reliefs, Herculaneum, 1st century AD. Copyright Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei / Trustees of the British Museum.

LONDON.- The British Museum will stage two unique live broadcasts to cinema audiences across the UK and Ireland with a special offer to school groups.

Introduced by British Museum director Neil MacGregor this event will use a line-up of expert presenters to create a one-off experience including contributions from historian Mary Beard, Rachel de Thame revealing life in the garden, Giorgio Locatelli in the kitchen and Bettany Hughes in the bedroom.

This unique live broadcast event will take cinema audiences round the major exhibition Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum 28 March – 29 September 2013 in the company of renowned experts and practitioners who, alongside live performance – music, poetry and eye-witness accounts – will bring to life extraordinary objects, some never seen outside Italy before. Interviews throughout the exhibition will be intercut with stunning specially recorded films in Italy, showing Pompeii and Herculaneum and the sleeping Vesuvius.

This exhibition is the first ever held on these important cities at the British Museum, and the first such major exhibition in London for almost 40 years. The exhibition has a unique focus, looking at the Roman home and lives of the people who lived nearly 2000 years ago in Pompeii and Herculaneum, both typical Roman towns at the heart of the empire.

The live event will take visitors along a Roman street and into a local house with atrium entrance, bedroom, kitchen, dining room, sitting room and garden. In the company of experts such as the curator of the exhibition Paul Roberts; Professor of Classics at Cambridge University, Mary Beard; historian Bettany Hughes; as well as interviewees such as chef Giorgio Locatelli and gardener Rachel de Thame, we will be taken close up to the famous casts of the people caught in the volcanic heat as well as the objects from their daily lives. Examples include intricate pieces of jewellery, sculpture, mosaics, cooking equipment and even food including an intact loaf of bread with the baker’s stamp still on it. Also on display will be wooden furniture carbonized by the high temperatures of the ash that engulfed Herculaneum which are extremely rare finds that would not have survived at Pompeii – showing the importance of combining evidence from the two cities. The furniture includes a linen chest, an inlaid stool and even a garden bench. Perhaps the most astonishing and moving piece is a baby’s crib.

Neil MacGregor said “Following the success of live cinema broadcasts of theatre, opera and ballet, the British Museum is thrilled to be the first museum to broadcast a live exhibition event. This is a unique experience for audiences across the country to enjoy a very special evening view of this unmissable exhibition, full of fascinating objects lent to us from Italy, from the comfort of a cinema chair. It will be a very personal tour guided by experts who will explore the stories these special objects tell us of Roman life 2000 years ago. We hope this will inspire people to travel to come and see the exhibition at the British Museum”.

The event will be shown through all the major UK cinema groups including Cineworld, Odeon, Picturehouse and Vue as well as independent venues across the UK - all of whom have growing alternative content audiences. Tim Richards, CEO of Vue Entertainment said, "We are hugely excited to be working with the British Museum. This is a wonderful opportunity to continue our commitment in pushing the boundaries of traditional cinema exhibition. Not only are we helping to bring the epic and immense story of Pompeii and Herculaneum to a regional audience, but we're doing it in a unique, intimate and affordable way that will undoubtedly appeal to our customers. We are thrilled that the British Museum are joining the group of cultural bodies offering engaging content that will undoubtedly appeal to our customers".

David Hancock, Director, Head of Film and Cinema, IHS Screen Digest said “Alternative Content in cinemas is beginning to take-off and we are starting to see what the digitisation of cinemas is really about. As the UK moves to 100 per cent digital during the first half of this year, and the public is becoming more aware of non-film programming in their local cinema, the range and creativity of this content is growing. In the UK, there were 121 events in cinemas in 2012, compared to 109 in 2011 and 44 in 2010. The majority of these are Opera, Ballet and Classical Music events and the planned British Museum event on Pompeii and Herculaneum really does bring something new to the mix of Alternative Content programming in two ways, coming as it does from a museum and with two events aimed at adults and children respectively.”

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