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Event cinema

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The Industry

Over the past few years, it's been clear that the live projection of plays, operas, ballets and other alternative content has been a growth industry for UK cinemas, with niche players such as the Picturehouse chain making it a core part of their offer. But getting a commercial measure of the activity has been another matter altogether, since this growing revenue stream has been omitted from official box-office reports tracked by data gatherer Rentrak.

Recent months have seen the introduction of alternative content -- now more sexily relabelled 'event cinema' -- to UK box-office reporting, and for the first time Rentrak has supplied an all-time top ten for the category (see below).

What the numbers show is that, while the New York Met Opera made the early running in live events beamed into cinemas, it is live theatre that is now indisputably dominating the sector, with seven of the top ten slots. The National Theatre's War Horse pulled in a whopping £1.55 million for its live showing in February -- grossing more on that day than all the films on release did put together -- and with encore screenings has gone on to a total of £2.71 million. And that's just from the UK -- War Horse was also shown to audiences all over the world. Box office for event cinema will be reported later this year in Germany, France and Spain, which will give a clearer indication of global reach. Melissa Keeping of the Event Cinema Association the trade body formed just over 18 months ago -- comments: "I have to hand it to NT Live. They are dominating this. They've done an extraordinary job. More power to them." The poaching of Film4 head Tessa Ross to be its next chief executive [see Brewster, page 16] may indicate the direction of the National Theatre's thoughts about global growth.

Given relative costs, producers of culturally engaged cinema aimed at upscale audiences can only look at these numbers with envy. Ralph Fiennes's film of Coriolanus, with a rumoured production budget of around £5 million, earned £901,000 in the UK from its entire theatrical run in early 2012. A couple of years later, the Donmar Theatre's stage version, starring Tom Hiddleston, grossed £754,000 from a single night; with encores the total is now up to £952,000.

Event cinema is having unexpected impacts on the film industry, especially with respect to the four-month theatrical window that multiplex chains demand prior to a film's home-entertainment release. Last November, hundreds of cinemas participated in the BBC's Dr Who: The Day of the Doctor -- a piece of content that was far from exclusive and in fact shown simultaneously for free on television. So it's clear that, when it suits, this window can be flexible. Recent screenings of Lars von Trier's Nymph()maniac and Alain Guiraudie's Stranger by the Lake were able to play in multiplex cinemas despite a window-busting video-on-demand release, because they were presented as special live events (ie with talent participation) rather than regular releases. What started as a few cinemas showing some ballet and opera could end up shaking the whole economic model for film exhibition. EVENT CINEMA: ALL-TIME TOP TEN ATTHE UK BOX OFFICE

Film Year Gross 'War Horse', National Theatre Feb 2014 £2,714,773 'The Audience', Gielgud Theatre Jun 2013 £1,877,531 'Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor' Nov 2013 £1,835,115 'Frankenstein: National Theatre Mar 2011 £1,598,859 'Richard II', RSC Nov 2013 £1,440,509 'Coriolanus', Donmar Jan 2014 £952,323 'Othello: National Theatre Sep 2013 £936,419 'Macbeth: Manchester Festival Jul 2013 £863,896 'The Nutcracker', Royal Ballet Dec 2013 £737,673 'The Sleeping Beauty: Royal Ballet Mar 2014 £734,833

Thanks to Rentrak

Riding high: the National Theatre's War Horse

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  • APA 6th ed.: Gant, Charles (June 2014). Event cinema. Sight & Sound p. 15.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Gant, Charles. "Event cinema." Sight & Sound [add city] June 2014, 15. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Gant, Charles. "Event cinema." Sight & Sound, edition, sec., June 2014
  • Turabian: Gant, Charles. "Event cinema." Sight & Sound, June 2014, section, 15 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Event cinema | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Event_cinema | work=Sight & Sound | pages=15 | date=June 2014 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=3 July 2022 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Event cinema | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Event_cinema | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=3 July 2022}}</ref>