The world-premiere opening performance of King Kong at Melbourne's Regent Theatre is still weeks away, but the irritable ape is already causing a stir.
City hotels are preparing for a influx of visitors from interstate and overseas to see the show, which begins on June 15 and State Tourism Minister Louise Asher has predicted Kong will bring 50,000 visitors to Melbourne, with an economic impact for the state of up to $45 million.
Destination Melbourne chief executive Chris Buckingham believes the show's arrival will confirm that Melbourne "is the beating cultural heart of Australia".
"Shows that want to succeed come to Melbourne first, because they know that they will be made welcome by locals and visitors," he said.
"We love blockbuster shows like Kong because they attract quality crowds. Theatre goers activate our streets, eat at our restaurants and stay in our hotels. They give business and the community a sustained lift for months and months."
The official accommodation partner for King Kong, which has started preview performances ahead of its big premiere night, is the Accor group, which includes Sofitel hotels.
Accor says it sold 2400 room nights through ticket sales and accommodation packages after the Melbourne run of Jersey Boys. Even more successful, Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs at Melbourne Museum produced 3000 room nights.
Accor's regional general manager Adrian Williams said that along with Mary Poppins and War Horse, major shows have put Melbourne on the map as Australia's events capital.
Ms Asher said major blockbuster musicals were of significant value to Victoria. "Opening seasons have consistently proven their ability to attract tens of thousands of visitors to the state," she said. "Visitors have shown that they value the opportunity to see the opening season of a major production with an original cast and crew."
Tickets are running "above average" for interstate and overseas bookings, according to a spokeswoman for the show.
"The international media interest is incredible. I've never seen anything like it. The emails from the UK and the US keep coming thick and fast."