The money question

Very interesting article below about the challenges of financing a theatre broadcasting project (courtesy of John Wyver and his blog at Illuminations Media).

Call me naive, but I would have assumed that commercial theatre (i.e. Broadway and the West End) would be better equipped to capitalize on new financial ventures such as live broadcasting. But this piece from the New York Times — ‘Off Off Off Broadway (at Your Multiplex)’ — suggests that this isn’t the case. On the contrary, established arts institutions like the Met Opera and the National Theatre have both the cultural heft and long-term structure to be able to develop an in-house broadcasting programme and to keep it supplied with a steady stream of productions:

    ‘The scattershot attempts to follow National Theater Live and the Met suggest that there is still plenty of head scratching about the financial and philosophical issues behind the idea of canning Broadway for mass consumption.
    Julie Borchard-Young, who along with her husband, Robert Borchard-Young, runs BY Experience, said the sheer institutional might of companies like the Met and the National made the process far easier to navigate than it would be for an individual Broadway producer. Ms. Borchard-Young, who knew the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, from his days at Sony Classical, was the one who initiated conversations about bringing opera to the movie-theater masses.
    “Broadway is not a single unified institution that can do all the legwork to prepare the marketplace,” she said. “Also, the serial nature is important. When you have a series of productions, everything from marketing to other costs are easier to handle.”’

The other point the article makes are the manifold challenges of negotiating artists’ contracts and associated financial rights — something I’ve heard reiterated in smaller-scale digital projects as well.

Unsurprisingly the question of money is a very, very important one, and one that perhaps we hear far too little of. How much does it cost to produce a live broadcast, and to what extent are those costs recouped through cinematic and DVD/download distribution?

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