The Playgoer: Live on Screen

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Live on Screen

"Going to your favorite theater doesn't mean just going to the movies anymore. Audiences everywhere enjoy sharing special events with their friends and family in public places – it's just not the same at home. Our mandate will be to identify the one-of-a-kind and sold-out events that people around the country most want to see and we will work to present them to audiences everywhere."

-Roy Bruer, Sony Pictures.

He's talking about this:

The Hot Ticket, Sony Pictures Releasing's new business unit, which will... distribute event programming, including popular music concerts, the performing arts, and sporting events in high definition digital projection to select movie theaters nationwide.
This basically the same approach the Metropolitan Opera has taken, with their highly successful HD screenings of productions staggered around the country.

Now Sony is doing it for Rent. (The big closing night, that is.)

What's that you say, wasn't there already a Rent "movie"? (Released by Sony Pictures, no less.) All the more reason why this is notable. It's the "liveness" that's in demand, now.

So this may be good news for theatre and other live performing arts (like opera). One thing technology will never change is the hunger for liveness. Which is why even though "theatre" per se may be in a period of decline in the way of audience and market interest, "live entertainment" in the broader sense is certainly not. Concerts, standup, Cirque Du Soleil, you name it.

Now of course... this is anything but live. "Live on tape" as they used to say. But interesting there'll be more hoopla about this Rent than the proper Hollywood feature film "in the can." (Yes, pun intended.)

But there's another factor here leading to this trend. The decline in attendance at bona fide movies as well. So what we have here is a convergence of two failing industries--theatre and feature film theatrical distribution--leading the major cinema chain owners to find new "content" to program into their real estate. (Just like Broadway theatre owners are increasingly happy to rent their houses to bands like Duran Duran and, this summer, Cirque Du Soleil itself.)

Hence: "Going to your favorite theater doesn't mean just going to the movies anymore." You may have also noticed more screening rooms cropping up that are basically "dinner theatres" that show movies or even sporting events.

As we say in the theatre: What good is sitting alone in your room...?

Those Met opera screenings surprisingly sell out often. Of course, they're on one screen for usually just one showing. But, hey, at least it's not wasting empty seats--as with that 2pm showing of "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium."

A historical footnote: wide distribution/exhibition of theatre on film was tried in the 70s by the American Film Theater project, which produced some fine (and some lame) results. And they weren't even doing musicals! I'm talking Pinter and Ionesco.

So Sony may just be onto something...

1 comment:

jeremy said...

Hi "G",

There is a precedent:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=sLQDW4ZqckQ

J