Distribution arm offers hi-def events to theaters

Sony Pictures Releasing is diving into the alternative theatrical content biz. Studio has created a new unit dubbed the Hot Ticket, which will distribute nonmovie content, including concerts, performing arts and sporting events, in high-definition digital projection to select movie theaters nationwide.

Move comes on the heels of the success of Disney’s “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds” 3-D concert pic, which earned $31.1 million on just 683 screens during its Super Bowl weekend bow. It went on to gross $65 million.

Sony becomes the first studio to announce a division dedicated to distributing nontraditional fare on the bigscreen.

The new unit, which will report to SPR prexy Rory Bruer, reflects Sony’s commitment to explore HD-friendly content as North American theaters transition to digital technology.

Hot Ticket’s debut slate of events includes the September conclusion of the 12-year Broadway run of the musical “Rent,” which will feature special closing-night extras and some original cast members. Before that, in August, will be the final staging of Cirque du Soleil’s “Delirium” as it closes its multiyear, worldwide tour at London’s O2 Arena.

“I think you’ll see more companies take a look at this,” said Bruer, who added that Sony has been toying with the idea of launching such a unit long before “Hannah Montana’s” bigscreen foray.

“We realized there’s going to be a lot of different possibilities. This is just a start,” he said.

In recent years, alternative entertainment has hit local cinemas with increased frequency and success, including sold-out Metropolitan Opera simulcasts and New York Mets baseball games.

“Going to your favorite theater doesn’t mean just going to the movies anymore,” Bruer said. “Our mandate will be to identify the one-of-a-kind and sold-out events that people around the country most want to see, and we will work to present them to audiences everywhere.”

Each presentation from the Hot Ticket will be a limited engagement, and events will be shown in 2K and 4K digital theaters.

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