National Theatre artistic director Nicholas Hytner has revealed that the NT is to offer live broadcasts of its shows at cinemas across the country from this summer.
The scheme, called NT Live, which Hytner estimates will cost the venue £50,000 per show to broadcast, will launch with the venue’s forthcoming staging of Phedre with Helen Mirren in the title role.
It will be shown live at 50 cinemas across the UK – all outside central London – on June 25 and at 100 sites across the rest of the world, where the broadcast will be delayed so that it can be shown at an appropriate time in each territory.
Tickets will be priced at around £10 each and there are plans to screen a further three shows, yet to be announced, as part of the scheme’s inaugural season. Screenings will take place at independent cinemas and will be on Thursdays.
Special one-off ‘broadcast’ stagings of the shows will be organised, where audiences in the theatre will either be invited or have cut-price tickets to compensate for the potentially intrusive nature of the filming, which will be done using multiple high definition cameras and will be transmitted live via satellite to the cinemas.
“It’s something that has been in the air since the Metropolitan Opera started to broadcast live two or three years ago,” said Hytner. “There are various reasons why opera might work better than theatre, but we felt that somebody had to try this and if somebody had to try this, then it had to be us.
“We are seeking sponsorship and we will, I’m sure, find sponsorship. It will be a relatively expensive operation, but we need to see if there is a call for this. I keep thinking that if Olivier’s National Theatre had been available in a cinema in Manchester when I was a teenager I’d have gone every time, whatever.”