With the introduction of sound on film, cinema underwent an identity crisis. What to call these new fan-dangled talking pictures? In 1928, film trade newspaper Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World led a campaign to try and come up with a new name. Common labels included “talkies,” “soundies,” “lispies,” “synchronized pictures,” and “audible pictures.” Suggestions ranged from “audien,” “cinelog,” and “dramaphone,” to “pictovox,” “viewvoice,” and, my personal favorite, “vivavox.”
For the purposes of this site, I define a filmed live musical as a stage musical that has been legally captured and distributed to the public. The deeper question I would like to look at today is, what is the final product that is distributed? Is it theatre? Is it cinema?
Filmed live musicals are distributed and advertised under different names, including “filmed live theatre,” “live cinema,” “transmission,” “HD transmission,” “cine-cast,” and “live capture.” Makers and distributors of filmed live theatre, including The National Theatre and Digital Theatre, describe filmed live theatre as a hybrid of theatre and cinema.
“Filmed live” can be a confusing label. How do we distinguish between a musical that is broadcast live, and an encore screening of that live broadcast? Is it still “live” if the screening takes place months, or even years, after the actual event?
I would love to find a new name for filmed live theatre that reflects this hybridity.
Several studies show that audiences see attending filmed theatre at the cinema as an equally authentic way to experience live performance as going to the theatre. Recent studies also suggest that audiences have more emotional responses to filmed live theatre than they do in the actual theatre.
As evidenced by the success of National Theatre Live, Met Opera Live, the growth of theatre streaming services like Digital Theatre, and BroadwayHD, and the persistence of bootlegs, audiences are craving filmed live theatre content. We need to clearly define filmed live theatre, and label it, to make it accessible and searchable.
For now, “filmed live musicals” is the term I’m going with (hence the name of the site!), but I think it would be fun to come up with other terms that help filmed live musicals reach new audiences.
What do you think? Share your suggestions on the Facebook page or on Twitter!
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When you consider the hundreds of musicals that have been nominated over the course of the Tony Awards’ 72 year history, it is easy to see that very few Tony Award nominated and winning musicals have been legally filmed live for public consumption.
Broadway is an immensely influentially and highly coveted corner of the musical theatre world. Despite this, Broadway is inaccessible to millions of people around the world due to cost and, importantly, geography. This year’s Tony Awards broadcast worked to include some of those Broadway lovers around the world with the initiative #TonyDreaming. On Twitter, I wrote that filmed live musicals are an amazing way to help fuel the dreams of aspiring thespians.
What better way to reach out to millions of theatre lovers, aspiring actors, technicians, writers, and directors than by making legally filmed high quality captures of Broadway shows available to those people? Yes, the New York Public Library Theatre on Film and Tape Archive exists, but it is only available to people who live in New York, and each capture is only available to view once.
We have come to expect cast recordings as normal for Broadway shows, I dream of the day when filmed live recordings are also a standard occurrence. As I looked at in a previous post, filmed live releases of Broadway shows do not negatively affect ticket sales. It doesn’t mean a filmed live recording needs to be released on opening night, or that every single musical should be recorded, but there is a hunger for Broadway, and we need a better solution to combat bootlegs.
Of the 25 filmed live Broadway shows currently in the database, 20 are available to view, either in the cinema, on DVD, or online. As shown below, you can use the database to search for musicals and learn more about where to watch them.
The great thing about filmed live musicals is that they are not limited to Broadway. Several Broadway productions have been filmed whilst on tour, such as the original production of Sweeney Todd or more recently, Disney’s stage version of Newsies. The database has plenty of musicals such as An American in Paris, Billy Elliot, and The Phantom of the Opera which have played on Broadway, but have been staged elsewhere and filmed live for public consumption.
From this year’s Tony batch, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Live from Lincoln Center will film the gorgeous revival of My Fair Lady, and the capture of Once on This Island’s Tony Awards performance demonstrates that theatre in the round is ready to be filmed live. With Daddy Long Legs producer Ken Davenport at the helm, perhaps we will have another Tony Award winning revival to view on screen. Given that all the nominations for Best Musical were all based on movies, we can hope that filmed live musical versions of those musicals will also be possibilities.
Congratulations to all of this year’s nominees and winners, and let’s hope we will see more of them filmed live and available on a screen near us soon!