Of all the alternative content that has been tried in cinemas, theatrical plays is one of the smallest of sub-categories. With the exception of the recent Swedish Strindberg play beamed in HD to local cinemas, the closest we have come to this is the musicals of Broadway TV Network. But it is operas that have dominated the digital stage-to-screen transfers and you have to go all the way back to the Electronovision distribution of Burton’s Hamlet to find an example of theatre-into-cinema theatres.
Until now, when the concept is being tried in Japan using the latest in high tech and fibre optics. The performance will be one by the famous Takarazuka Revue all-women troupe in a joint venture between Toho Cinemas and Takarazuka Creative Arts. From an article in Variety:
The Takarazuka broadcasts, showing a perf of the Takarazuka Flower Troupe at the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater, will be Dec. 24 at seven Toho theaters. The show will feature the final appearance of retiring Takarazuka star Sumire Haruna in the musical “Adieu Marseilles” and the musical revue “Love Symphony.”
The broadcasts will be transmitted from a data center to the theaters via fiber-optic lines, stored in a server in the theater and then beamed to auds. In Tokyo and Nagoya Toho will use dedicated lines from NTT Communications, in Osaka, lines from NTT West.
The long term aim, according to the article, is the expand the traditional cinema audiences’ horizons from just thinking of it just as a place for movies to one for sports, music and legit content too. A very interesting experiment, though as the experience of BTN has shown, getting permission from all the guilds and unions to send Broadway plays or musicals into cinemas is not an easy thing.
Apparently they had Sam Mendes’ ‘Cabaret’ all ready to go, until the director himself allegedly pulled the plug on the venture. BTN has not distributed a play or musical since. So we shouldn’t hold our breath about ‘Young Frankenstein‘ being beamed out live to cinemas, at least not before the inevitable movie adaptation of the film-turned-musical comes to a screen near you.