THAT'S SLOW BIZ
One of the last bastions of entertainment may finally be dragging itself slowly but surely, from the real world of live performances on to our TVs and eventually onto the internet. As Variety reports in it's own lingo:
"As legiters seek footholds for old-fashioned live entertainment in the world of new media, the Metropolitan Opera has struck a profitable balance between stage and screen -- and theater orgs have begun to take note.
"The Met: Live in HD," the successful series of live hi-def cinema transmissions of current Met offerings, continues to expand even as the company has been forced to downsize some of its programming ambitions in the current economy.
The growing momentum of the program -- with more than 1.5 million tickets sold so far this season -- has caught the eye of legit orgs looking for ways to boost their brands. Earlier this year, London's National Theater announced a similar series of live cinema broadcasts clearly modeled on the Met's pilot program."
The rub to date has not been anything to do with technology or potential receptivity by the market, but business model issues having to do with union contracts. Variety goes on to explain:
"Performer and stagehand unions were initially wary of the "Live in HD" program as a potential exploitation of its members -- but they warmed up when a deal was worked out that has union members sharing in revenues once the broadcast's production costs are recouped.
"It's a model that works," Gelb says, adding that sales easily outpace the costs of production and distribution, which average around $1.3 million per transmission."
And as one might have theorized, the experiment is broadening the audience for live productions:
"Part of the benefit comes in bringing Met fare to new auds -- a goal shared by an array of Gelb's aud-building programs, including free dress rehearsals and live telecasts in Times Square on the season's opening night.
"We've seen it go from the core opera fans to a broadening demographic," says Dan Diamond, VP of Fathom, the National CineMedia branch that distribs the "Live in HD" series. "It creates a relevance to younger audiences because it's in a movie theater, and it's more affordable."
That rising profile, in turn, feeds into box office at the Opera House itself. Paid attendance, which came in at 76% before such initiatives began, rose to 88% last season."
Who knows, we may see this trend expand to live theater as well, be it Broadway or Off-Broadway. One of these days the show may yet go on...line. Perchance to Dream.