Now Showing In A Cinema Near You

Be truthful. How many hours have you spent in the last week watching YouTube videos? Probably a number higher than you would care to admit. Well, the increasing prevalence of YouTube within society has caused many arts organisations to re-evaluate how they interact with their customers.


Today I am talking about one kind of video in particular. You know those recordings of musicals and plays that have been shot by audience members while someone kept a look out for a nosy usher. Well, as more and more shows are uploaded to YouTube via these (illegal) recordings there is a decreasing incentive for audience members to pay the $120+ to go and see a show that they are not overly enthusiastic about seeing. Especially when they can just relive the highlights for free behind their computer.

So what are these shows doing?

Movies – a live recording of a performance that has been professionally shot and is then broadcast in cinemas across the country (or the world). The Lincoln Centre in New York has a subscription series where patrons can see recorded versions of their performances and the National Theatre in the UK broadcast their performances throughout movie cinemas.

For audience members who do not mind seeing a recorded version (as opposed to a live version) there are many benefits to these recorded shows for both the audience members and the company that produced the show.

Firstly, the price is much more accessible. No longer is there the risk that the $120 will be in vain if the performance was not enjoyable. Now it is only a $20 gamble – which, as far as entertainment spend goes, is a pretty cheap investment.

Secondly, there aren’t the same behavioural restrictions. One thing that turns people away from attending live theatre is a lack of understanding regarding how to act in the theatre. What is considered rude behaviour? When am I allowed to get up and go to the bathroom? Am I allowed to eat during the performance? All these unwritten laws of attending live theatre can be rather daunting if someone has never been before – but everyone knows how to act in a cinema. You can come and go as you please, munch on your popcorn and even talk very quietly as long as you don’t ruin the experience for other people.

Thirdly, the experience is opened up to a whole lot of people who wouldn’t have had the chance to see the production. I am talking on a geographic scale here. If a production is incredibly popular it will tour around the country, but the rest of them are generally just stuck in capital cities. By sending a recording to movie theatre around a country, around the world or even straight to someone’s computer, the number of people who can see the production grows exponentially. And for the production company . . . that means lots more $$$.

Finally, a couple of years ago I was doing a tour of the Lincoln Centre in New York, and one of the other members of this tour expressed her love of the recorded performance. Not because of the big stars, the cheaper price or the greater accessibility, but because she got a sneak peek into the technical happenings behind the curtain. And if that got her through the door to each of their broadcasts, then that is as good of a reason as any!

There is a lot of fear that broadcasting shows will decrease their runs and make them loose money. But CDs didn’t kill the live music industry – so maybe it is worth a bit more investigation so that more companies follow the lead of the National Theatre and the Lincoln Centre.