The King is in the house

Some would say that a mere exhibit at a museum would never draw crowds into a city. To that, Cathey McClain Finlon, president of the Denver Art Museum, would simply say, “Tut, Tut.”

The Denver Art Museum’s “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs,” is drawing those crowds by the thousands, not only from Colorado, but from around the country.

“It’s done everything we wanted it to do,” Finlon says. “Our objectives are being exceeded. We’re getting tourists flying into the region. And people from every walk of life — moms, grandmas, children — are loving it.”

The exhibit, which runs through Jan. 9, 2011, features more than 100 treasures from ancient Egypt. A portion of the proceeds from the exhibit will go toward a new museum in Cairo, as well as antiquities preservation and conservation in Egypt. (watch ColoradoBiz TV’s coverage)

Artifacts from temples and tombs have been drawing the masses since the exhibit opened on June 29, Finlon says.

“The presentation is stunning,” she says of the exhibit, which was organized by the National Geographic Society, Arts and Exhibitions International and AEG Exhibitions. “I went through it first with my husband, and it just gives you goose bumps. There you are looking at artifacts that are thousands of years old and often perfectly preserved.”

Black and white films of the discovery of the tombs add to the mystique, she says.

“I think people are also drawn by King Tut himself,” she says. “He was 19 when he died. And we now know so much about him.”

Partnering with Visit Denver, King Soopers and several hotels has ensured that the exhibition will stay strong through the year.

Rich Grant, director of communications for Visit Denver, says the King Tut exhibit alone has boosted Denver’s economy, but it’s not the only draw.

“But we’ve had an amazing summer,” he says. We have the Moore in the Gardens exhibit at the Denver Botanic Gardens, Body Worlds at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, a great concert lineup at Red Rocks, and the Rockies are doing well.

“It’s almost a DNC level of excitement that we have,” says Grant. “I’ve been here for 30 years, and I’ve never seen such a summer. From the fireworks at Civic Center Park, to the DAM exhibit; I’d say in relation to the rest of the country, we’re doing well.”

Visit Denver, a nonprofit organization that contracts with the city to market Denver as a great destination, has tracked some numbers. There’s been an increase in hotel room rentals, as well as rates.

“And we have the beer fest coming up. It’s going to be hard to find a room.”

“In the past, on weekends like July 4, we’d see a mass exodus up to the mountains,” he says. “Not so anymore. Downtown was busy all weekend. And an exhibit like King Tut? I call that a tipping point. People may be trying to figure out where to go, and when they see this great exhibit, it spurs them into action.”

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