Opera may be coming to a movie theatre near you

Tue Nov 18, 2008 12:50pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - For opera lovers who balk at paying 180 pounds ($270) for a seat in the stalls, or anyone seeking a night out at the movies with a difference, opera houses are increasingly looking to film to boost audiences.

New York's Metropolitan Opera led the way with live broadcasts in movie theaters two years ago, and its "Live in HD" series reached 920,000 people in the 2007-08 season, more than the number who saw performances in the opera house itself.

British opera houses followed suit, and now Russia's Bolshoi Ballet is getting in on the act as demand for access to what has often been seen as the preserve of wealthy patrons opens up.

"We genuinely believe this is another way for people to get access to the art form in a less intimidating way," said Gillian Brierley, head of marketing at Glyndebourne, southern England, which holds an annual opera festival notoriously difficult to get tickets to.

"Now for 10 pounds you can try it. We have very high attendance figures during the festival, but we have an aging

audience and need an audience of the future. And obviously it is less of a risk to pay 10 pounds," she said.

Glyndebourne's foray into opera on the big screen is still small, but this year it tripled the number of UK movie theaters it screened at to around 30 after the success of a pilot scheme in 2007.

The number is determined not only by demand, but also by the limited amount of digitally equipped cinemas in Britain.   Continued...

<p>Dancers of The Royal Ballet perform a scene from the new production of Swan Lake during a dress rehearsal at The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London, in this file photo from October 1, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico</p>