Digital broadcast facilitator CinemaLive has struck a multi-year arrangement to tape Opera Australia performances at the Sydney Opera House for cinematic releases locally and abroad.

Sydney-based CinemaLive, a subsidiary of the Shooting Star Picture Company, will package the opera performances in high definition with 5.1. surround sound.

Two productions will be captured this side of Christmas for distribution in cinemas across Australia and New Zealand. The production schedule will ratchet up a gear from 2011, when a minimum of five productions will be filmed and sold to international cinemas.

CinemaLive anticipates replicating the great heights achieved by Peter Gelb and the team behind the hugely successful HD distribution of shows by New York's Metropolitan Opera.

"There's a huge appetite for this type of material," says CinemaLive acquisitions and marketing director Michelle Hunter, who describes the new pact as an "Australian first." All parties in the project are keen to explore the appetites for opera in the regions.

"With each of these Opera Australia productions, we're making opera accessible to everyone, not just the 'highbrow'," Hunter tells Billboard.biz.

In a statement, Sydney Opera House CEO Richard Evans hails the use of technology to reach "a wider audience beyond those that can visit us on Bennelong Point."

His counterpart at Opera Australia, its CEO Adrian Collette continues, "It has long been our aim to bring quintessentially Australian interpretations of much-loved operas to a wider audience via cinema and we are delighted that many more people will be able to experience Opera Australia's performances."

The production titles and initial cinema partners will be revealed in the coming days, according to CinemaLive.

Although cinecasting is still at its infancy in Australia, the business has percolated in recent years across Europe and the United States, where artists such as Robbie Williams, David Bowie, David Gilmour, Kylie Minogue and Take That have appeared on-screen for special 5.1 digital cinecast events.

CinemaLive launched its turnkey service in December 2008 with a cinecast of children's entertainers the Wiggles, which went out via satellite from the Sydney Entertainment Centre and beamed into 32 local movie houses. The feed was subsequently sold on to 44 cinemas in the U.K. Dutch classical showman Andre Rieu has been the subject of subsequent cinecasts.

CinemaLive opened a U.K. affiliate in 2009 and plans are to launch a U.S. affiliate in the near future.