More than 100 Broadway and West End shows available to stream
by Larry Murray
It was inevitable that Broadway as recently found its way onto the big screen to take advantage of the growing audience for top notch performances in High Definition in local cinemas around the world. But another big change is in the wind as efforts are now well underway to make it available everywhere, on smart phones, tablets and computer.
Britain’s NT Live (National Theatre) has shown the format works to draw audiences, some of whom are also ticket buyers for live performances, and some of whom just watching movies and shows using technology. What it portends for the future of live theatre in America – especially regional and community theatres, is yet to be determined. Only time will tell.
The Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD transmissions which we have covered for the past half dozen years continue to draw huge audiences to 2,000 screens around the world, though there is some question as to whether this has cannibalized The Met’s ticket sales, or if the disparity between the cost of seeing a screening via hearing it live has made the streaming version more affordable. These operas are also available for streaming on The Met’s website.
With top notch casts and productions, comparisons are inevitable between bare bones local performances, and multi-million dollar New York extravaganzas.
It is also true that getting the rights to telecast a show playing in a major Broadway house is a complicated matter, with big expenses to satisfy the demands of all the unions involved in a big show. So we watch this new effort from BroadwayHD with great interest.
Already a provider of on-demand Internet streaming of high-caliber, full-length theatrical productions, BroadwayHD.com is lifting the curtain on a new era. The groundbreaking new service plans to take the best of professional theatre and make it available using online streaming technology, “from the stage to your screen.”
BroadwayHD is Broadway on demand, allowing Broadway fans old and new to watch their favorite shows like never before, wherever streaming is possible. With a curated library of more than 100 shows available at launch, ranging from Shakespearean classics to modern musicals and dramas, and plans to continuously expand, BroadwayHD has a piece of content suitable for any viewer.
Founded in 2014 by Broadway producers Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley, who between them have nine Tony Award wins, including 2014 Best Musical for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and 2011 Best Play for War Horse, BroadwayHD first brought the high-definition capture of Broadway production Romeo and Juliet, starring Orlando Bloom, to movie theatres nationwide. Lane and Comley’s involvement in stage-to-screen theatre dates back to 1991 with The Will Rogers Follies. After their latest foray into the stage-to-screen space with Romeo, Lane and Comley saw a need for a service that would go beyond the big screen to make Broadway available anytime, anywhere, and across all types of devices.
“We will always be live theatre lovers first, so we acted quickly when we saw an unmet opportunity to expand the reach of theatre to those that can’t experience it or want to keep experiencing it over and over,” said Lane. “Given advances in streaming technology and the increasing trend of readily available content, we knew that a digital platform that allowed people to experience a theatrical show – a medium that historically is not available beyond the stage – would be monumental.”
Other theatre professionals have long recognized the timely and valuable contribution of stage-to-screen productions in heightening the appeal and reach of live theatre, as well as creating a lasting record of performances so that future generations can enjoy the art for years to come.
Upon launch the BroadwayHD library boasts original content from Broadway Worldwide’s Direct From Broadway® catalog, BBC Worldwide North America, WNET/New York and more, including performances from Dame Helen Mirren, Orlando Bloom, Anthony Hopkins, Dame Judi Dench, Daniel Craig and Carol Burnett. Notable titles include Direct From Broadway’s contemporary Broadway musicals Memphis, Putting It Together andJekyll & Hyde The Musical, as well as the newly available historic capture of Duke Ellington’sSophisticated Ladies. Noteworthy dramatic titles from London’s West End include prominent productions of Copenhagen, The Entertainer, Henry IV, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing and many more.
“Nothing will ever replace the magic of live theatre, but we passionately believe that Broadway and all forms of professional theatre should be more accessible to all, no matter location,” said Comley. “Currently BroadwayHD offers viewers an immersion into some of the timeless classics of Broadway, West End and other professional productions. It’s our vision that one day every play, musical and alternative performance that comes to a professional stage will be captured for people to continue to experience the magic for years to come.”
As with the capture of Romeo and Juliet, BroadwayHD plans to continue to add high-definition (HD) captures, using HD and 4K technology cameras to bring the excitement of a theatrical performance from the stage to screens around the world. These high-quality captures, along with a collection of some of the best works over the past 20 years, create a vast library of theatrical content that spans genres and eras.
BroadwayHD is available to anyone with a connected device, from mobile phones and tablets to desktops and laptops, as well as accessible through TVs with Apple TV and Google Chromecast. It is available as a monthly subscription service for $14.99 with unlimited access to all content, or as a one-time rental fee of $7.99 for the show of your choice. BroadwayHD also features free behind-the-scenes and educational content for registered users.
To experience theatre like never before, go to BroadwayHD.com.
BROADWAY IN THEATRES
The competition for dominance has begun. Shows are also available on DVD and BluRay from http://www.BroadwayOnline.com
Broadway Worldwide’s deal with SpectiCast makes Direct From Broadway accessible to hundreds of U.S. exhibitors, which can program some or all of the five titles on the slate. In addition, Broadway Worldwide has made a separate deal with non-theatrical distributor Swank Motion Pictures to get the Direct from Broadway offerings onto cruise ships, where live Broadway-style fare is already a regular component of shipboard entertainment.
The goal is to use this initial cinema series as a stepping stone to more regular programming that features, ideally, contemporary Broadway fare. Despite the production challenges, such a series might be closer to materializing than it has been in the past, as legit producers increasingly recognize the branding and marketing benefits of a presence on the big or small screen — particularly as a means toward bumping up national awareness before a show hits the road for a tour.
The five titles in the Direct From Broadway series will be made available to exhibs on a rolling schedule this fall, beginning with Memphis.
BroadwayHD was founded by Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley, and is dedicated to bringing live theatre to new audiences and new channels. Its flagship website, BroadwayHD.com, features over 100 stage to screen feature titles, as well as free behind the scenes and educational content.
ABOUT BROADWAY WORLDWIDE
Broadway Worldwide, Inc. is the first-to-market leader in the production and worldwide distribution of Direct From Broadway® musicals on screen. The company’s strategy of capturing only audience-proven Broadway musicals and acquiring all cinema, digital and television distribution rights makes it unique in the media and entertainment business.
ABOUT BBC WORLDWIDE NORTH AMERICA
BBC Worldwide North America is the main commercial arm and wholly-owned subsidiary of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) operating in the U.S. and Canada. The company exists to maximize the value of the BBC’s assets for the benefit of the UK license payer and invests in public service programming in return for rights. The company operates four businesses in the territory – linear and digital content sales and co-productions, consumer products, BBC.com, and BBC Worldwide Productions, the production arm responsible for the smash hit Dancing with the Stars. The company also owns a 50.1% share in cable channel BBC AMERICA through a joint venture with AMC Networks.
As New York’s flagship public media provider and the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams and MetroFocus, the multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. WNET is also a leader in connecting with viewers on emerging platforms, including the THIRTEEN Explore App where users can stream PBS content for free.