Flight 666, Iron Maiden performing at a cinema near you

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The Independent Online

"Hello the Odeon, Kettering!" might not have quite the impact of "Hello Knebworth" but for Iron Maiden, one of the most famous names in heavy metal, the humble local cinema has been identified as an ideal locale for a spot of head-banging.

And so, 21 April has been dubbed Maiden Day, when rockers young and old will be donning their leathers, essaying a few power chords on their air guitars in front of the mirror and then taking themselves down to their High Street picture houses to pay homage to a band that has sold more than 70 million albums in a career spanning 34 years.

The cinema industry hasn't seen anything like it since the Teddy Boys arrived in their droves in 1956 to watch Bill Hayley's "Rock Around the Clock". In one sitting, fans will take in 23 Maiden gigs from around the world in what has been dubbed "the most adventurous tour in rock history".

During the course of the movie, which has the suitably diabolical title Flight 666, the band are flown from gig to gig in their own Boeing 757 by lead singer Bruce Dickinson, a professional airline pilot.

The film will be shown on Maiden Day in 34 countries and represents a new opportunity for both the cinema and music industries to open a lucrative revenue stream. The event, being shown at 77 cinemas across the United Kingdom, is being organised by Arts Alliance Media (AAM).

"It's a great experience, the sound is tremendous and you feel like you're part of the crowd in 25 different countries," says Howard Kiedaisch, AAM's chief executive. "This is similar to the growth in live music and we are talking to the record labels."

AAM has already made great progress in bringing classical musical events to local cinema screens. Audiences have been able to see live opera performances from La Scala in Milan, the Teatro Real in Madrid and the Royal Opera House in London.

On 5 April, Palm Sunday, more than 100 cinemas in the UK, Europe and North America will show a live rendition of Handel's Messiah, performed by the King's College Choir in its chapel to mark the 800th anniversary of Cambridge University. Then on 3 June, cinemas across Britain will be screening Ondine, live from Covent Garden, followed on 30 June by La Traviata, featuring the American soprano Renée Fleming.

Cinemas have been delighted with the response of audiences to such events, though Kiedaisch admits that he was not always convinced of the demand. "If you had come to me five years ago and said digital cinema is going to show opera I would have said you are crazy because there aren't that many opera fans out there. But there are."

Richardson says the opera offering has been especially popular with the over-60s audience. "It's so affordable and convenient at the local cinema that it has totally opened up their entertainment world," she says. "The feedback we get is that it's almost like being there because you are up close to the performers."

The growing number of digital cinema screens in the UK is increasing the opportunity to use such spaces for other events.

Richardson predicted that a new area of growth in Britain would be the live screening of the first nights of big musicals being staged in the West End or on Broadway. On 13 April cinemas across the UK and Europe will show a recording of the Covent Garden ballet Tales of Beatrix Potter.

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