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Live In HD "Cannibalizes" The Audience


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#31 volcanohunter

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 09:11 AM

Thank you. I asked because it's not unusual for theater chains to stick to opera or ballet presentations from a particular distributor. For example, here are three upcoming ballet performances being presented in French cinemas, and you'll see that there is no overlap in the movie theaters. But if you live in Marseille, for example, you will be able to go to three different cinemas to see each of the performances.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Esmeralda
The Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler

In France Pathé Live presents the Bolshoi Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theater and the Metropolitan Opera, Côté Diffusion presents the Royal Opera House and dramas from a variety of French theaters, François Roussillon et Associés distributes the Paris Opera, and they don't mix.

In Canada the movie chain business is virtually monopolized. When Cineplex definitively swallowed up its primary rival Famous Players, it had to sell some of the old FP locations because even in larger cities it would have owned virtually all the movie theaters, a few art-house cinemas excepting. This allowed Empire Theatres, previously located only in Atlantic Canada, to go nation-wide, though of the four Famous Players multiplexes it bought where I live, two have since closed.

When the Met first began direct-to-cinema transmissions, no one was sure whether they would fly, and during the first season the broadcasts were shown Canada-wide by both Cineplex and Empire Theatres. However, the screenings did take off, and apparently Cineplex used its far stronger position to insist that it be the primary Canadian presenter of the Met in HD, because since the second season Empire Theatres has shown the Met only in its native region of Atlantic Canada, where Cineplex has no theaters. Empire attempted to counter by going into partnership with a Canadian distributor of Opus Arte productions, and although these were not live performances (which many people seem to value very much, though to me it's unimportant), I appreciated the series because it endeavored to show as many ballets as operas. Sadly, it lasted only a few seasons, and the distributor eventually went out of business.

Thankfully, Cineplex eventually began presenting a regular ballet series, initially the Bolshoi, expanded as of this season to the Royal Ballet as well. But you're right, while the Royal Ballet seems to be okay, the Royal Opera is still inaccessible, and La Scala is right out. In order to see any of those opera productions, I'd have to drive 8 hours to do it. Prior to the start of the current Met season Cineplex did show a couple of operas from Covent Garden, but these were 3D versions of Carmen and Madama Butterfly, and neither was live.

If Regal, AMC and Cinemark have locked themselves into the Met, leaving Carmike--located more in the South and West and frequently a bit off-the-beaten-track--to screen performances distributed by Emerging Pictures, this does make it difficult for the ROH to make inroads. But even if the Met were less jealous in guarding its turf, I wonder whether the big chains would be interested in showing performances from other opera houses. Perhaps they'd calculate that the market is saturated already and that there wouldn't be much appetite for more than the Met's dozen or so transmissions, which are being cut back to 10 next season as it is.

#32 Helene

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 09:56 AM

In Vancouver, the Met in HD was initially shown in Cineplex Theatres, but later added a second theater, the Park Theatre, which was part of the arthouse Festival Cinemas small chain. The Festival Cinemas owners sold to Cineplex just recently.

Cineplex here also shows Ballet in Cinema from Emerging Pictures, as well as different stage plays, and at least the ballet is shown on tape delay and theater from England must as well, but I don't think they show Opera in Cinema, which is a real shame. I don't know if the opera's contract is for live only -- hard to imagine it would be -- if Cineplex doesn't want to take on the opera package and slot it into more prime slots or to open the theater at 10am on Saturday, or if they're doing it to protect the Met. Here, for Gelb, it's Cineplex or nothing, but that's not the case elsewhere in Canada, and here it's a small market.

#33 dirac

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 11:52 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.


I guess I tend to interpret " turning into must see" as people flocking to the theater for reasons directly attributable to the movie house broadcasts. It could, of course, be happening. As you note, statistics are incomplete.

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 exposure in the US.


I didn't know that, abatt. I suppose he's acting as a businessman but it does seem a bit of sharp practice.

#34 Helene

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 12:24 PM

I meant that if someone who had seen the Met in HD visited NYC, instead of being on a list of things to do during the visit, the Met would have been a destination.

They have some of the stats about ticket sales from non NY-Metro visitors in their system, just as they, Paris Opera, Royal Danish Ballet, Ballet Arizona, Arizona Opera, San Francisco Opera and Ballet, and the Royal Opera and Ballet among others have stats on me from my online or phone ticket-buying history. I suspect the Met could track the spikes in ticket sales after HD broadcasts vs. after other Saturdays and with online sales, they know where people come from. That's the data I'd try to mine if I were they, even if I had other goals in having HD's.


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