Shining Out From The Crowd

The name Billy Elliot is iconic. The movie has only been around 14 years and the stage show since 2005. But there would be very few people who wouldn’t recognise the name. Now there is a completely different way that this iconic story can be introduced to a whole new generation!

Billy Elliot

Billy Elliot the Musical went where very few musicals have ever been before last weekend. A live recording from the stage. It is, unfortunately, incredibly uncommon for a show to be recorded live on stage and then broadcast around the world. It is even less common for a show that is currently fighting against many other offerings on the West End to do so.

Why is it so uncommon?

There is this great fear that once the performance has been captured on DVD, audiences will immediately stop purchasing tickets. This fear is not that unreasonable. There would certainly be a contingent of the audience who are glad to decrease their entertainment spend from $150 a show down to $25 for a movie ticket. But would it mean the end of the theatre industry.

No. The experience of watching a show in the theatre is rather different to a cinema. Nobody claps – which is an awful shame – and the environment, while exciting, is nowhere near as electric as in a theatre. But ultimately it comes down to the future consumer behaviour as a result of seeing this musical in the cinema. Let me explain.

There were essentially two different types of audiences in that cinema. Either they didn’t go often or had never seen a live musical. Or they had seen the original production and relished the opportunity to see it again.

Group 1: The Theatre-holics

Those who had already seen the show before would now take advantage of this opportunity to save some money. But it wouldn’t necessarily stop them from going back to see it live again.

Legally Blonde is one of the elite few who have ventured into the live recording territory. Recording its opening night performance and then broadcasting it on MTv, the show enjoyed a respectable run on Broadway followed by a West End transfer and several touring productions around the world. While a recording was freely available to illegally download online, the show wasn’t met with empty theatres whenever it played.

In fact I had seen the recording and it certainly didn’t stop me seeing the show (a few too many times!)

Group 2: The Theatre Newbies

This cheap opportunity to engage with the theatre is a great risk-free option for newer consumers. The cinema doesn’t have the same upper class attitudes towards behaviour and it is a rather cheap gamble as to whether you will enjoy the show. If you don’t . . . well you can always walk out and you have only lost $25 and an hour out of your life.

But it could quite easily cause a rather different future consumption behaviour. Taking advantage of this accessible opportunity encourages new consumers to engage with the theatre. And if they love what they see then they may come back next time the cinema decides to broadcast a musical. OR they may actually take a punt (now that they know they will enjoy a musical) on seeing a live musical!

Considering that most new consumers are risk-averse, this musical may even be the one they saw in the cinemas because they already know they are going to have a great time.

So while the loss may be a little bit of repeat business, there is great potential for collecting a whole new crowd. And it is that crowd which will keep the theatres full into the future!