Ira Glass, Dr. Laura set for bigscreen broadcasts

You wouldn’t think radio personalities Ira Glass and Dr. Laura had much in common. But it turns out that fans of both are eager to see them on the bigscreen.

The April 23 live presentation of Glass’ “This American Life,” to be digitally broadcast to 400 theaters around the U.S., sold out more than a week early in several major cities. And Dr. Laura, who is plugging her new book, “In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms,” is drawing fans to a live May 5 theater simulcast — priced at about $20 a ticket.

Fathom Events, which books most such one-off theater events, started out in 2002 booking sporting events and concerts like those of Celine Dion and Garth Brooks. But it was a Metropolitan Opera live series that really propelled the biz. “Fans have a chance to see something they’d have to go to New York to see,” says Fathom VP Dan Diamond.

Now, with more theaters equipped for digital projection, Fathom’s digital broadcast net, which screens mostly at Regal, AMC and Cinemark theaters, has found niche auds interested in a wider array of programming than the sports and music events initially envisioned.

The circuit has also become an alternative to conventional theatrical distribution. Targeting segments such as anime fans, who turn out for programming such as “Death Note L: Change the World,” or craft brewing fans with docu “Beer Wars: The Movie,” the events aim to be more than just screenings.

The anime pics include extra features and interviews, while the April 16 run of “Beer Wars” included a panel discussion moderated by Ben Stein and, in many cities, sudsy after-parties.

“It’s a very immersive experience,” says Diamond. “Fans have to feel like they get something worthwhile.”

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