BWW Blog: Why Filming Broadway Shows Live Onstage is so Important
Anyone who knows me knows my favorite show is Newsies. Just by walking into my room, you can tell by the fifteen references that are scattered on my walls. I've been fortunate enough to have travelled over a thousand miles to see the show four separate times over the course of two years. As you can imagine, I was pretty excited when it was announced that Newsies would be hitting the big screen, and ecstatic when hearing the movie is being released digitally. However, my excitement for the live film wasn't solely from the love of the show, but for the opportunity for more people to fall in love with the show like I have.
While there's a Broadway show for everyone, Broadway can be very inaccessible. I live only a five hour drive away from New York City, which allows me to go to the city in the morning, drive down and see a show, and be asleep in my bed the same night. On top of that, Broadway in Boston brings upwards of six shows a season, and my father gifted me season tickets this past holiday season. I realise how fortunate I am, but many people are not.
Broadway shows can be very expensive. Even a ticket in the very back of the balcony can be out of someone's budget. Yes, there are cheaper tickets options through lotteries, standing room only, student rush, and discounted ticket booths, but none of those are guaranteed for the shows you wish to see, especially if the shows are extremely popular like Hamilton or Dear Evan Hansen. On top of ticket prices, if you don't live close enough to New York to go for just a day, you're going to have to pay for a hotel. But how are you going to get to that hotel? Flights, trains, even driving cost even more money than you're already spending. Yes, you could wait for a tour to run through your area, but tours are never guaranteed to run, nevertheless through your local theater.
Digital releases makes theatre accessible to even more people worldwide. When Newsies released in theaters, the intent was to only have three showings in the United States, as well as showings in twenty-four other countries. However, the showings were so successful that Disney added a fourth date in the United States, plus certain theaters ran the movie other times after that, causing Newsies to shatter the Doctor Who event film's previous record for highest grossing event film in history. Before the addition of the fourth showing, over two hundred thousand people had seen the film, a mix of casual fans, superfans, and those who had never heard of Newsies before in their life.
However, the success of Newsies still has some people questioning if capturing theatre on film is beneficial to the show. Some claim that by capturing a piece of theatre on video, the desire for people watching to see the show live would be completely diminished, losing the show possible money. The only logical reason this would be true is if one saw the live filming and did not enjoy the show, which could have happened if they had seen the show live. Any other theatre lover would take any opportunity to see a show live, even if they had seen it digitally prior.
Filmings of shows live onstage also opens the door for more people to discover a show they might've never thought of previously. For example, last season I would have never considered seeing She Loves Me because I knew nothing about it. After watching it in my advanced acting class last week, I've completely fallen in love. Without their livestream, it's very possible I would have never seen this show due to it's closing, which is another reason to film shows. Shows closings, especially when those shows don't produce tours afterwards, prohibit the expansion of the show since less people are seeing it. By releasing footage, shows are opening a door to another, great income for the show. Through the sales of either movie tickets, DVDs, or digital releases that are available worldwide, a whole new gate of potential consumers is opened. Since those purchases are cheaper than theatre tickets, more people can afford them.
Filmed versions of shows can also be used in an educational setting. Historical shows like Newsies, Hamilton, and Les Misérables can be shown in history classes, shows based on novels can be shown in English classes, such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, The Color Purple, and Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. Of course, these are just a few examples, and any other shows would be beneficial to watch in a theatre/chorus class as well.
Overall, the positives of filming shows outweigh the negatives. Fans of the show are given the opportunity to see one of their favorite shows time and time again. General Broadway fans can discover new shows, as well as ordinary people who don't want to give shows a try without breaking the bank. The show itself also continues to make money, since affordable tickets/DVDs attract more people in a way expensive show tickets might not. The success of filmings such as Newsies, being digitally released May 23rd, prove that live videos of shows being released are extremely successful, so which show is next?