Company, CineMedia expand plan

The Metropolitan Opera and National CineMedia are expanding their successful partnership to bring more operas into more movie theaters in the upcoming season.

The number of theaters and performing arts venues nationwide will hit 440, up 30% from last year, and the number of operas is rising from eight to 11. The 2008-09 season will be the third featuring the “Live in HD” simulcasts.

Tickets go on sale Friday.

The series begins Sept. 22 with the opening-night gala launching the Met’s 125th anniversary season. Soprano Renee Fleming will star in fully staged performances of scenes from Verdi’s “La Traviata,” Massenet’s “Manon” and the final scene from Richard Strauss’ “Capriccio.”

Other highlights from the season include John Adams and Peter Sellars’ 2005 work “Doctor Atomic,” featuring tech contributions from some seasoned Broadway hands, and “Metamorphoses” helmer Mary Zimmerman’s staging of “La Sonnambula” in March.

Each live performance, with the exception of the opening-night gala, will be followed by an evening repeat the second Wednesday after the live performance.

NCM Fathom, the alternative entertainment division of National CineMedia, is presenting the Met via the company’s digital network. Participating exhibs include AMC, Cinemark, Clearview, National Amusements and Regal.

“The audience for opera is growing with each new movie theater that joins our network,” said Met general manager Peter Gelb.

National CineMedia and the Met estimate the total worldwide attendance last season for “Live in HD” at 920,000, more than the total attendance at Lincoln Center.

The eight live performances grossed $13.3 million in North American theaters and $5 million more overseas.

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