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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