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Live In HD "Cannibalizes" The Audience


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#16 Birdsall

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 07:09 AM

I think the basic idea with putting dancing on screen is to show the space and let them dance in it, and other theater similarly.


...
I do like to basically see the opera the way I might see it in the theatre, although I do think close ups at choice moments is important too. I think a close up of Wotan saying goodbye to his daughter is appropriate. A shot overhead is unnecessary. Overhead shots in ballet sometimes make some sense b/c seeing the patterns can be interesting, even if it is not what we usually see in the actual theatre.

In cameramen's defense, however, I have been to a performance and focused on one performer and then missed something in the action on the other side of the stage and been mad at myself.
...


So there can be an opportunity for the people behind the cameras - the director, basically - to help us to see more than we might if distracted, to keep us on target - but subjective darkness descending, examination of spear points? No, when many cameras are available, some principles of cinema need be kept in mind - the sequence of the shots edited together can make or break your experience of the whole event - but, yes, if it "works" in the theater, it'll work the same way on screen if you let it, don't cut it up, don't make sausage meat out of it.



I agree with you completely, but to play Devil's Advocate.....I know in film (both from taking a film class in German Studies and having an aunt who was an art director) simply filming what happens is not the goal of a director and I am guessing not the goal of a video director either. Each director is creating (in his or her mind) a piece of art separate from the actual sequence of events that an audience sees. That is why that lousy Tristan und Isolde video director had the picture fade in and out while Tristan was dying. She was making an artistic choice and statement by making us feel Tristan's tentative state of consciousness. I personally think it was a FLOP decision on her part.

This is also why we get furious when a movie version of a beloved novel comes out. They sometimes combine characters (due to length of novel) or cut out scenes or combine scenes or even redo the story somewhat. This is because directors do not feel they are taking a great work of art and simply translating it into a visual image. They feel they are creating a whole new work of art and not simply a recreation of the novel. Sort of like how the ballet Don Quixote was a new and totally different work of art than the novel.

And that happens when the person is also filming opera and ballet. They often have their own agenda which frustrates us.

#17 volcanohunter

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 10:47 AM

And, as Mr. Gelb said in the phone interview, the Met can rightly take pride that broadcasts have “extended the operagoing life of older customers,” those people who have become too frail to make as many trips to Lincoln Center as they used to.

Surveys have shown that the decline in the Met’s audience has come from “outlying areas of New York,” Mr. Gelb said, with people who used to visit the Met now simply finding it easier to stop by the local movie house on Saturday.


Anecdotally I can confirm this. I have an aunt who lives right across the GWB. At one point in her youth she was going to the Met practically every night as a standee; later she was a subscriber for decades. But she can no longer afford the subscription, and limited mobility makes it difficult for her to get into Manhattan. While seats high in the Family Circle may be within her reach financially, they're not accessible to her physically. But she does occasionally attend the live transmissions, because in suburban New Jersey she doesn't have to pay the bridge toll, she doesn't have to pay for parking, she doesn't have to negotiate a lot of steps, and she finds the experience more satsifying than watching the television replay.

#18 Jayne

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 11:16 AM

so maybe the problem is the greying of the subscribers? They are living on limited pensions, have limited mobility and limited tolerance for evening events. So the Met HD broadcasts help keep them involved.

#19 California

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 11:56 AM

so maybe the problem is the greying of the subscribers? They are living on limited pensions, have limited mobility and limited tolerance for evening events. So the Met HD broadcasts help keep them involved.


I'm sure that's part of it, but attracting younger audiences surely is a problem, too, for both opera and ballet. Major companies seem to have all sorts of programs to attract younger audience members, but I don't know how successful they are. And people of limited income at all ages can only experience the arts in these secondary ways. The big companies need to figure out how to exploit the new technologies without destroying their major revenue sources. (But this is also a problem for newspapers, book publishers, and music studios.)

#20 Birdsall

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 12:32 PM

When I was living in Tampa an elderly woman fell almost every single HD transmission. This is because the dumb movie theater had varying lengths of steps instead of a ramp going down. It was a stadium type movie theater, and people expected steps going up to the stadium type seats but the ground floor seats had steps instead of a ramp, for some reason. These steps were lit up on the edges but they had unexpected changes in length. Some of the steps were long platform steps and others were short steps. It was horrifying to see an old woman fall flat on her face almost every single time I went. I picked up a couple who fell near me and said they were okay. One could not get up and we called 911. I started warning elderly people as they walked past me to be careful. I suspect that the movie theater got away with this b/c all the steps were lit (did what they legally had to do), but it was still hazardous!

I had a similar situation in NY at a restaurant near Lincoln Center. The restaurant is on the second floor and you enter these glass doors and you immediately see stairs leading up to the restaurant and "Watch your step" sign but you think they mean the stairs and you are looking around as you enter to see if a hostess will greet you and to see what paintings are on the wall and BAM! I tripped completely on a long landing step that comes soon after you enter and I was flying into the stairs. I had to hold out my fingers to avoid slamming my face into the stairs, so my fingers took the full brunt of my 6 ft. almost 200 pounds frame!!!! When I got home my doctor said nothing was torn or broken, but it should heal in 3 months. My fingers ached horribly for 6 months despite what he said, and I finally went to acupuncture and just a few times of acupuncture made them almost as good as new. The restaurant has a colored strip on the landing step and a "Watch Your Step" sign but you still don't expect that landing step at all on the ground floor despite all those legal precautions. The fact that they have a sign and colored strip tells me that I am not the only person to fall.

So watch out if you know the restaurant that I mean. I can't remember the name but it was a seafood place.

Anyway, I think some movie theaters can actually be dangerous for elderly people (and clumsy people like myself) to navigate!!!!!

#21 Helene

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 03:24 PM

Were I the Met, I would welcome the elderly who can no longer travel to the Met or afford the tickets. I would welcome the 20- and 30-somethings with younger families who might be able to sneak out for a morning to a cinema -- maybe meet up with their spouse and children in the mall afterwards -- to see opera, when the cost and complexity of arranging babysitters and an evening out after a long day makes it a dead "in-between" demographic.

I would also welcome the Met Opera as a worldwide brand with which people are involved, not just a name association or a "maybe" on a trip to NYC jam packed with other things.

This Sunday's magazine section will have an article on Gelb that is now available on the NYT website that argues differently:

Annual new productions at the Met have nearly doubled; geriatric demographic trends have been arrested, if not reversed; fund-raising is setting records. The Met now has a 24-hour channel on SiriusXM radio; an iPad app; education programs in more than 150 schools in 21 states; subsidized tickets; free dress rehearsals. When Gelb became general manager in 2006, the number of subscribers surged and the percentage of sold-out shows rebounded off historic lows. Subscriptions and the percentage of house seats sold have tailed off in the past few years, and the Met recently had to roll back last season’s 10 percent ticket-price increase, but these negative box-office trends have been offset by the growth of the audience for the Met’s “Live in HD” broadcasts, which Gelb initiated and which last season drew 2,547,243 viewers in 54 countries.


and it includes a link to another NYT article from last year that argues that Met HD is an expansion and an offset.

Fundraising setting new records is critical for the Met. In the US, a $125 donation to the Met allows a person to get tickets before the general public, crucial for cinemas that have reserved seating, unless the first few rows are preferred. I wonder how many extra donations and memberships they get for this purpose, and also how many older people are sending small checks because they're still involved through HD's. The HD's keep the Met in sight and in mind.

I've mentioned before that think the perfect experience is Operavision, which is offered at three performances of each opera at San Francisco Opera. There are two screens that are dropped from the ceiling in the Balcony that provide a directed, HD-like experience to people at the top of the theater. The acoustics are still there, it's a live experience, and there's always the option of looking at the stage, which I did regularly for Jun Kaneko's brilliant sets. I can only imagine what it would be like at the Met given the extraordinary acoustics of the Family Circle.

#22 dirac

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Posted 22 March 2013 - 09:59 AM

I don't see any major contradiction between the new NYT piece and the quotes from Gelb in the NYT piece abatt linked to at the beginning of the thread. Overall things are good and the broadcasts appear to be a net plus, it's just a question of analyzing who's going to the cinema instead of the theater and why. So far the answers don't seem very threatening.

#23 Helene

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Posted 22 March 2013 - 10:14 AM

I think the implication of the latest piece is that people who would have gone to Met are staying local, because it's cheap and convenient, while the another take is there was a drop-off in attendance separate from the fact of the HD's that was countered partly by the increase in attendance for HD's. There are many reasons for an independent drop-off such as an aging population that can't do the physical commute and/or afford the tickets, Gelb's productions and choices of singers being unpopular among different long-time opera-goers, Gelb's honeymoon period having ended.

There haven't been any stats released to show who constitutes the drop-off in attendance vs. any offsets by visitors, a critical revenue stream for the Met, and whether the attendance would be a lot worse without the interest generated among those who've seen the HD's and turn Met attendance from "Nice to have" to "Must see."

#24 sidwich

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 10:13 PM

Overall things are good and the broadcasts appear to be a net plus, it's just a question of analyzing who's going to the cinema instead of the theater and why. So far the answers don't seem very threatening.


I think it's clear the HD broadcasts are clearly a net plus. The important thing to remember is that the Met-attending audience may be a somewhat smaller piece of the pie, but the broadcasts are making the overall size of the pie bigger. Actually, i suspect the Met audience as a whole is a lot bigger. Yes, there will probably be some drop-off in attendance, but there are large swaths of the public who will never get to a live Met theater performance for one reason or another (financial, physical, geographic, etc.) that Gelb has now made performances accessible for.

From personal experience, I can tell you that a number of my friends here in Los Angeles cannot make it to New York for Met performances because well, frankly, they can't hop on a LAX-JFK flight on a weekly basis, but they faithfully go to virtually ever single one of the Met HD performances.

#25 sidwich

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 10:19 PM

Maybe the Opera (and Ballet) HD cinema need to look at other models. I'm not a sports fan (except for figure skating and gymnastics) but don't some local teams ban local TV broadcasts of games that are not sold out? The Opera/Ballet might adopt the same rule for broadcasts within, say, 100 miles. I suppose one problem would be the movie theater owners who wouldn't commit to something like this. (Not great for fans, but better than abandoning that mode of delivery altogether.)

Another model: the traditional release of books was hardcover first and cheaper paperback much later, sometimes a year or so later. (The book publishing model is in chaos right now, of course, because of e-books, but that was the old model. If you just couldn't wait, you'd pay premium price for the hardcover -- or get onto a waiting list at your local library.)


Both those models would be a step backwards. Gelb's model with the HD Met broadcasts actually is closer to what's going on in sports these days. In the sports markets, the value of the TV rights is outstripping the value of live attendance. I seriously can't think of any football or baseball games that are blacked out anymore. (I don't watch basketball, but I suspect it's the same). You can pretty much watch watch every game your favorite team plays from coast to coast . You can even watch internationally in most cases. And as you pointed out the publishing model is going digital as well.

#26 dirac

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 12:19 AM

I seriously can't think of any football or baseball games that are blacked out anymore.


Still happens to our flailing Raiders, but infrequently. The NFL relaxed the blackout rules because they eventually figured out that lack of television exposure was hurting sales for struggling teams and not helping, in fact creating a sort of vicious circle. But certainly in the case of the NFL television broadcasts historically have helped ticket sales - it's easier to follow the game on television than live, creating a better experience when fans hit the stadium. (There's been some talk that the new mammoth TV screens may change that, but I digress.) Opera, of course, has been broadcast on television for decades (and radio, of course), but the experience was remote enough from the real thing not to constitute a threat to live performance.

....whether the attendance would be a lot worse without the interest generated among those who've seen the HD's and turn Met attendance from "Nice to have" to "Must see."


Plainly they haven't turned it into "must see." No question, though, that Gelb has done the right thing in trying, and so far it seems to be working out. It's possible that even if the broadcasts could be shown conclusively to harm ticket sales in a significant way, they might still need to push forward with them for the reasons sidwich outlines.....

#27 Helene

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 12:28 AM

I don't see how they plainly haven't turned into "must see": there are no statistics about whose attendance is dropping off vs. whose attendance has increased. Obviously if overall attendance is going down, there aren't more people who are motivated by the HD broadcasts to attend live performances than those who are no longer coming, but there are other variables that could have impacted attendance, and, so far, there's no way to know if there hadn't be HD broadcasts, whether attendance would be even lower because of these factors. They either don't have the data, or they haven't released the data.

One of the articles stated that donations are a record high, but there was no breakdown of what kinds of donations, size of donations, and the geographic distribution. Is the $125 annual gift that allows people to buy tickets early part of the equation? Again, they haven't released the data.

#28 abatt

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 05:13 AM

One thing that bothers me about Gelb's approach is that he has prohibited movie theaters showing the Met Live in HD from also showing HD performances presented by other opera companies. This has created a significant problem for European houses - specifically the Royal Opera - in showing their HD opera performances in the US. In New York, there are 2 or 3 minor movie houses that show the Royal Opera performances (though never live). I think in part due to Gelb's anti-competitive stance, the opera broadcasts from the Royal Opera House have gotten very little expsoure in the US.

#29 volcanohunter

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 06:49 AM

One thing that bothers me about Gelb's approach is that he has prohibited movie theaters showing the Met Live in HD from also showing HD performances presented by other opera companies. This has created a significant problem for European houses - specifically the Royal Opera - in showing their HD opera performances in the US. In New York, there are 2 or 3 minor movie houses that show the Royal Opera performances (though never live). I think in part due to Gelb's anti-competitive stance, the opera broadcasts from the Royal Opera House have gotten very little expsoure in the US.


I have a very poor idea of how movie chains function nation-wide in the U.S., though it seems to me that they are less centralized, or monopolized, than in other countries. Where Met broadcasts in the U.S. are concerned, are they shown primarily by chains?

#30 abatt

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 07:27 AM

In the US, the Live in HD operas from the Met are shown at movie theaters that have contracted with an organization called "Fathom Events". Fathom Events has its own website, and you can find the local movie theater in yiour area. Though I don't tend to go to the Met HD films, I think the movie theaters are major chain theaters. Fathom also presents showings of other special events in movie theaters, like rock concerts and sporting events.


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