Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Billy Elliot screening tops UK box office

This article discusses how well the live broadcast of Billy Elliot the Musical did at the box office, taking in £1.9 million. The broadcast was seen at over 500 cinemas across the UK, making it the largest cinema release of a live event.

In the UK, the live broadcasting of musicals in cinemas has occurred before. In 2010, there was a live broadcast  of Les Miserables in honor of the show’s 25th anniversary. In 2011, there was a live broadcast of Phantom of the Opera shown in 250 UK cinemas. If you are interested, both of these productions are on YouTube.

After seeing this article, I became interested in this idea of broadcasting live musicals in US cinemas. Could it a thing? Is it already a thing?

We have already discussed live broadcasting of art events is something we have discussed in class. For example, the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts their performances in the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series. Through this program, operas are seen in movie theaters and art centers across the world, opening the Metropolitan Opera House to a global community. Opera is of course NOT musical theater, but it was the first example of live broadcast to cinemas that I could think of.

Last year, NBC produced The Sound of Music Live, a TV special that was performed and televised live. While critics scoffed at Carrie Underwood’s acting ability, the special was seen by nearly 20 million people! Based on these great ratings NBC is producing another musical special at the end of this year. This time it is the musical Peter Pan and will star Girls star Allison Williams as Peter and Christopher Walken as Captain Hook. While it is still unknown whether this production will do as well as The Sound of Music, I’m sure that anything with Christopher Walken as a pirate will draw a crowd!

I am wondering if anyone knows of a musical that has been broadcast live in the US in movie theaters? I found this listing on playbill.com that provides all the plays/musicals that will be shown in movie theaters. Interestingly, most of the shows listed are either straight plays, being done in theatres in London, or both. Besides Billy Elliot (which the listing says will be broadcast in the US sometime in 2014), only two shows with music in them that will be shown in American movie theaters, including the musical From Here to Eternity and the opera The Merry Widow, starring Renee Flemming and Broadway star Kelli O’Hara.

Do you guys think broadcasting musicals live in US theaters could be as successful as Billy Elliot was in the UK? Or is television a better medium for the live broadcasted musical in America?

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2 comments on “Billy Elliot screening tops UK box office

  1. torisharbaugh
    October 10, 2014

    I definitely think that broadcasting musicals in US theaters would be successful, but I also think television is a better medium for live broadcasts in America (or anywhere for that matter). Television and the internet have made watching movies and shows so easy and accessible. People do not have to leave the comfort of their home to watch something. Why pay $15 dollars to go see a movie when you can watch it for $5 at home, in your pajamas, with a bowl of chips and dip? That being said, people would still come to the theaters to see a live musical if it was not available in the comfort of their home. Could you imagine musicals like Wicked and Book of Mormon being in theaters? I think people would love that and it would be a huge hit. Especially if a big-name stars were to perform in a live musical, a larger and more diverse audience would be attracted to it.

    • jaredchamoff
      October 10, 2014

      That’s what I think too. I think that musical theatre is such an American staple. It’s like, apple pie, jazz, and musical theatre (I think I read that somewhere). And what’s more American than sitting at home and watching TV? I think that the combination of the two (musical theatre and tv watching) works quite nicely.

      I think that the Met Opera Live series works because opera is such a huge spectacle and I think that it translates well onto a movie screen.

      I think you are so right in mentioning Wicked as a musical that would work in a movie theater. That musical is HUGE. While I am not trying to compare it to any opera, I think it has a similar amount of grandiose that could draw crowds and be artistically satisfying.

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