It Ain't Over Until The Fat Lady Sings In Dolby Surround Sound

from the going-to-the-movies-to-catch-an-opera dept

Some movie theater owners have been notoriously close-minded about understanding their own business. They continue to complain about the “threat” of piracy, while ignoring the fact that it would be easy to compete if they focused on the moviegoing experience, and recognized that it’s a social experience of “going out to the movies” that people want to enjoy. People don’t go just for the content. However, there have been some signs that theater owners are beginning to figure things out — and one of the big ones is recognizing that a movie theater doesn’t just need to show movies — it should be able to show any content that people might want to watch as a large group with a large screen and a great sound system. It’s been years since people started discussing how new digital theaters would allow the broadcast of other content such as sporting events or live concerts. Live concerts, in particular, have been tried a few times. However, it’s still a bit surprising to see the the Metropolitan Opera House decide to broadcast live to movie theaters. It apparently took a lot of convincing for folks who work with the Opera house, as they have been notoriously stingy in allowing any kind of offshoot products. Still, the idea of buying a tub of popcorn as you settle into your seat to watch Don Giovanni, while hoping the mobile phones and crying babies don’t annoy you, may take a bit of getting used to. For opera lovers outside of New York, who have no opportunity to see an opera performed at the Met, it may make sense — but it’s hard to see (as the Met’s general manager suggests) that this will really help the opera combat its shrinking audience.

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Comments on “It Ain't Over Until The Fat Lady Sings In Dolby Surround Sound”

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Nathan says:


Ok, so I am actually one of those people that just might attend something like this. A local chain shows some live shows every now and then and I have had the good fortune to attend them. And yes, playing things other than first run movies on the big screen in surround sound in a huge draw in my mind. Show old films. Show popular TV shows. Show live concerts. Sporting events? Get creative, don’t get militant with security guards patrolling the aisles for cameras.

Faz says:


A) i would watch a jazz concert there
B) “Even if you live in NY, most people are not willing to shell out $250+” –> i am not an opera person but for 10 bucks, id go see it once
C) sports @ movie theaters AKA sports bars
D) movie theaters in NE USA try to sell their space for virtual meetings
E) holy crap some events will draw crowds that make MORE mess than crowds make in a normal theater

BC (user link) says:

What about Broadway?

I’ll bet Broadway could pull in a lot more cash by piping live feeds of the original cast into theaters everywhere, than they do now with touring companies, which always leave a bit of a hollow feeling for me, since it never feels quite as authentic as the “real thing”.

I know I’d pay pretty well to see Avenue Q or Spamalot performed “live” in a local movie theater by the Broadway cast.

Hael says:


Nascar races would be perfect in this environment, if the theater is willing to block off four or five hours for the complete race. They would sell a pile of popcorn and soda during the event. I generally resist purchasing any of the extras during a regular 2 hour movie due to the prices, but would most likely give in if facing a 5 hour stretch.

Monsuco (user link) says:

Why Opera

I would pay $5-10 to go see spamalot or something in theator (even though I have seen spamalot live on stage, it was awsome) and I certainly wouldn’t mine watching the super bowl on a 20×30 foot wide screen with awsome surround sound. Theators could make loads off of this and just split some of the earnings with the content producers. Say spamalot got 40 cents for every dollar spent. Imagine 1,000,000 people each spending $10 to see a show. Lots of money.

Kev says:

price is right

I saw Phantom of the Opera for $80 in the 5th row center(discount 50%). It was awesome on a thursday eve. The music and vocals were incredible. $5 for some scotch and not one rude person talking about their kids soccer game or what new ringtone was on their phone. Everyone was there to see the play not just to go out for a while. Watching in a theater would suck compared to watching in real life.

Opera Fan says:

Re: Never Work for opera


I’ll politely disagree with you; I think this will be very successful, for all the reasons mentioned by other commenters, and then some.

Obviously you missed the reviews of the Washington (DC) National Opera’s live performance of “Porgy and Bess” that was telcast for free on giant movie screens to an audience on the Washington DC Mall — more than 13,000 people attended.

Here’s the article from the Washington Post: Opera on the Mall – Tuesday, November 8, 2005; Page A18

I’m a huge opera fan, currently living far from a major opera company. We opera fanatics are the most hard core music zealots on the planet, often travelling hundreds (if not thousands) miles to see a performance of a favorite opera, especially with a reknowned cast. We also spend an insane amount of time (and money) on audiophile recordings, musical scores, and other paraphenalia — not to mention our home entertainment systems.

I’ve introduced many friends and colleagues to opera over the years, and now many of these friends carry subscriptions to their local opera companies… even friends/colleagues who’d previously only listened to heavy rock or heavier hip-hop. Being able to invite an inquisitive friend to see and listen to a world class opera at a local movie house, will be ever so much more easy and affordable than having to coerce them into a major road trip. 🙂

This will also be a great way to introduce children to opera. Let’s not forget the classic Bugs Bunny cartoon “What’s Opera, Doc?”'s_Opera,_Doc%3F

The Met has been broadcasting a Saturday afternoon performance via terrestial radio since 1931, and those broadcasts have an enormous following — in the US and internationally.

Though I had listened to the radio broadcasts since childhood, and even attended a couple of very enjoyable live performances, my first exposure to world class opera was via the movie screen — and I’ve been hooked ever since!

Back in the early ’80s my university had one of those fluff elective classes called “Opera 101” (or something) which basically consisted of listening to the lecturer deliver an entertaining synopsis of an opera, then watching a classic performance on film — the professor even provided the popcorn!

The class was so popular, the the campus theater began a second showing of the opera films on Sunday evenings.

So I think this is going to be a winner.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Never Work for opera… for the summary and apparently the article to mention doubt that this would help the exposure of opera is asineine. You’re right–I can drag my friends and family into a local theater to see an opera once or twice just on my automatic media-recommendation credit as an acquaintance. But I’m not going to be dragging any of them to new york.

Not exposing the artform to a wider audience is the last thing I’d be concerned about here.

Az says:


I would love to see TV shows shown in some theatres; say a season at a time. I get most of what I watch online anyway.
I know I love, and quite a few of my friends love, to watch big blocks of a series, to immerse yourself in it.
Let’s say back in time a little, watching a season of Star Trek: Voyager on a big screen as it comes out. Trekkies would flock to their local theatre to see 7 of 9 on the big screen 😉

It’s likely to fall apart with sitcoms and the like, they are designed for small doses. But the myriad of content available for storylined series like deadwood or Star Trek for example would, I’m sure, draw quite a crowd – and for a longer amount of time with high impact advertising in-between episodes and during intermissions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Somehow I don’t think the experience of big stage productions can be replicated on a theater screen. I don’t wont keep the masses from enjoying spamalot and the like in the only way they can… but I would be afraid of the artistic medium changing in response to that market into something a little different and more screen-friendly.

In principle, though, theres no reason the big theater screen shouldn’t be the locus for all sorts of diverse entertainment.

Opera Fan says:

Never Work for opera

Anonymous Coward,

Only being able to “…drag my friends and family into a local theater to see an opera once or twice just on my automatic media-recommendation credit as an acquaintance.”

Is that because you’re not excited about the opera performance or opportunity? Enthusiasm is everything. 🙂

Also, NYC isn’t the only city in the US with a major opera company: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Washington DC, Santa Fe, Chicago, St. Louis and Seattle (among others) all have exciting and very worthy — some even world class opera companies.

But you never explained why you think the idea is asinine, and what exactly did you mean by this statement:

“Not exposing the artform to a wider audience is the last thing I’d be concerned about here.”

Sorry, I don’t understand, why wouldn’t you want to expose more people to the art form? Are you afraid these people might enjoy the performance, and join the ranks of other crazed opera fanatics? Is that such a scary idea?

We’re quite harmless really…

Anonymous Coward says:

I was totally unclear! I meant that this response to playing opera in movie theaters:

“…but it’s hard to see (as the Met’s general manager suggests) that this will really help the opera combat its shrinking audience.”

is asinine. How can it HURT? Maybe by exposing viewers to an underwhelming experience, and thus souring them to the artform?

I would be more concerned with this scheme not playing up to what I think are the strengths of the live artform–viscerality and unpolished production. Of course, in a theater you are much more likely to achieve a reasonable facsimile of this than you are on a television. We like movies at theaters because it feels bigger than the alternative–viewing at home. But for a stage production, it seems very tricky to me for a movie theater not to _decrease_ the apparent scale.

Or I might be more concerned with today’s media consumers simply not having any more room in their life for new styles of entertainment, and playing this zero-sum game with the established savvy industry players is daunting. As with everything, it almost always takes some considerable time and energy investment to learn to appreciate something new.

But I am a fan of this idea, and any idea which results in greater opportunitiy of exposure to the artistic traditions to which modern movies, television, music, etc. owe their ultimate inspiration. The net effect can only be positive. Something needs to be done to make these things relevant in modern culture, and I am eager to see what it will look like when it is done.

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