Following hot on the heels of NT Live, Opus Arte has announces that productions  from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre will now also be accessible  in cinemas throughout the UK and abroad.

The Opus Arte 2009/10 season also includes world class productions from the Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne,  Madrid’s Teatro Real and Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu as well as concerts from the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge.  Opus Arte claims:

“Recorded in High Definition and true Surround Sound these performances from the world’s great stages give you an experience as vivid and as ambient the best seats in the house”

As the work of world class brands becomes more and more accessible, regional theatres will have more opportunities to diversify and free up resources.

Its part of the programming balance in a regional theatre to present world classics and Shakespearian productions but this is a costly business.    The cost of mounting a Shakespearian production or major classical production in our regional theatres varies.   So does the cultural success of the productions, in terms of the specific resonances and connections to local audiences through the production and the quality of the production.

But if a regular supply of excellent productions of Shakespeare and classics becomes available at a nearby cinema, then theatres could free some of their resources into the streams of theatre that are very specific to their audiences.  Collaborative work, participative and community work, research and development are all costly activities which tend to be subordinate to putting on the big productions but which embed theatres into their communities and allow them to take artistic risks.

Cinemas should be the bed rock of cultural planning for the 21st century.      In their inherent neutrality, they are more democratic and accessible than theatres, concert halls and opera houses.  The network of cinemas streaming opera and theatre live does not cover the whole of the UK at the moment, but it could.

It remains to be seen how much more diverse the audiences will be for Shakespeare and opera  in cinemas than they have been in  theatres, where audiences in regional theatre overall have remained static and lacking in diversity over the last five years at least.  Removing the barriers of cost and location and providing more certainty as to the quality through the assurance associated with household names should surely open up the experience to a wider audience.

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