Broadway expands its stage with movie theater shows

Mon Apr 25, 2011 2:36pm EDT
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"Memphis" is due to land on 600 screens around the United States for four showings between April 28 and May 3 at a recommended ticket price of $20 -- a bargain compared to about $130 for a top seat on Broadway.

Filmed with multiple cameras placed in strategic locations so as not to interfere with the enjoyment of live audiences, the broadcasts approximate the experience of seeing the shows in the theater, with the added benefit of close-ups that essentially give viewers the best seats in the house.

Bruce Brandwen, the founder and CEO of Broadway Worldwide, which is producing "Memphis," for movie theaters, pioneered the concept in the 1990s with such shows as "Smokey Joe's Cafe" and "Jekyll & Hyde."

Brandwen declined to detail the cost of recording and capturing "Memphis" for broadcast. But he said the process can range from $2-$4 million, depending on the number of stagehands, musicians and performers involved.

Several public performances of "Memphis" were shot in high definition, with the results edited for the upcoming broadcast.

The Roundabout took a different tack with "Earnest," which will be screened not only nationwide but also internationally beginning on June 2 and continuing on various dates through June 28. Three performances were filmed before live audiences, with one unedited version eventually chosen for the broadcast.

Roundabout's managing director Harold Wolpert said the goal of the project was to "make our work as accessible as possible to as many people as possible."

He said "Earnest" was chosen as the company's inaugural effort largely because of a grant from a well-heeled funder-- a huge fan of stage veteran Bedford, and the production -- who paid all of the out-of-pocket expenses.

"We do feel that when people see it that it will translate well," Wolpert said of "Earnest." "That's very, very important to us. Our bottom line is not just financial, but aesthetic as well."

(Editing by Jill Serjeant)