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Broadway on Demand? New Streaming Service Aims to Bring Stage to Screens

Two stage producers hope to usher Broadway fare into the digital streaming era with BroadwayHD, a new subscription and on-demand service that launches today.

The service kicks off with a library of more than 100 titles drawn from Broadway Worldwide‘s Direct from Broadway catalog — including “Memphis” and “Jekyll and Hyde” — as well as product from BBC Worldwide North America and public television station WNET, including London performances featuring the likes of Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Judi Dench and Daniel Craig.

The new site bows as stage producers and presenters are increasingly exploring the opportunities for brand expansion and new revenue offered by the digital revolution. Digital cinemacasts of stage fare have become more commonplace over the years as cinema exhibitors expand into alternative content and performing-arts organizations including the Metropolitan Opera, the National Theater and the Royal Shakespeare Company launch cinema programming.

Such programs have become more common to organizations in the U.K. than they have at home on Broadway, in part because each commercial Broadway production tends to be steered by a unique team of producers with its own vision for a show’s business model, marketing plan and dissemination.

BroadwayHD founders Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley — who have been on the producing team of a long string of Broadway shows including the current “On Your Feet!” and “Sylvia” — will aim to update the library with new titles on a regular basis. They’ll concentrate at first on plays with limited runs, since that model tidily evades any stage producers’ lingering concerns about digital distribution cannibalizing audiences for ongoing shows.

Lane and Comley were previously involved in the digital capture of the recent Broadway revival of “Romeo and Juliet” starring Orlando Bloom, which played in movie theaters last year after its 2013 run on stage. It’s now available as one of the titles in the BroadwayHD catalog.

On Broadway, there remain significant challenges in convincing stage producers that digital distribution is a good thing for individual shows and for live theater overall. But Lane and Comley said that more and more people are seeing the value in it.

It’s up to the whole industry. It has to be an industry movement,” Comley said. “We’re trying to make the digital capture of a Broadway show more like an original cast recording — something that’s done for every show as a matter of course.”

 

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