Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Astrodome Cinema at Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston

On May 28, 6:30pm I'll be screening two Astrodome-related films as part of my projects for No Zoning: Artists Engage Houston at CAMH.

Nicknamed the "Eighth Wonder of the World," "Can Do Cathedral," and "Taj Mahal of Sports," the Astrodome opened in 1965 as the first domed sports stadium in the world. During its height, the Astrodome hosted historical gatherings such as the “Battle of the Sexes” (a theatrical tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billy Jean King); “Millenium ’73 (a convening of followers of Divine Light Mission and the Guru Maharaj Ji); an Elvis Presley concert that broke all previous attendance records; and a 13-car motorcycle jump by Evil Knievel. According to the Astrodome's mastermind, Judge Roy Hofheinz (former Mayor of Houston), its design was inspired by a visit to the Circus Maxiumus in Rome, and indeed it reigned as one of the largest stages in the world until it closed in 2000. A mere 35 years after its spectacular unveiling, the Astrodome had become a relic. In 2001 on the same complex, Reliant Stadium was built-- the first retractable roof football stadium, with 20,000 more seats than the Astrodome. Today, the Astrodome is vacant and its fate is unknown.

Films to be screened:

The Pleasures of this Stately Dome, 1975, Geoff Winningham, 54:00, 16mm on video, color, sound

A study of the Houston Astrodome as a folk theater, created on the 10th anniversary of the opening of the dome. Winner of the Documentary prize at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 1976, and funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The film includes vintage footage from the construction and grand opening of the Astrodome in 1965, plus footage from ten years of diverse and memorable shows, including destruction derbies, Evil Knievel, Billy Graham, chariot races, rodeos, calf scrambles, and various professional sports. The film is punctuated by an extended interview with Judge Roy Hofheinz, who conceived and built the Astrodome.

The Lord of the Universe, 58:00, 1974, TVTV (Top Value Television), color, sound, video

Sixteen-year-old guru Marahaj Ji attempts to levitate the Houston Astrodome in this 1973 DuPont award winning documentary. Follow the guru from his New York mansion to limousines in Houston and listen to his followers celebrities and non-celebrities alike extol his virtues. TVTV's creative use of graphics, live music, and wide-angle-lens shots to convey the desperate efforts of these lost children to find a leader.
"If this guy is God, then this is the God the United States of America deserves." Abbie Hoffman. Courtesy Video Data Bank

Further reading:

Last Innings at a Can Do Cathedral, Jim Yardley, October 3, 1999, New York Times

Ode to the Astrodome, Brock Bordelon, astrosdaily fansite


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