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Broadway’s ‘The Lion King’ to Roar in Virtual Reality

Broadway’s “The Lion King” will release a virtual reality video of the show’s opening number, “Circle of Life,” on a handful of digital platforms tomorrow morning, aiming to capitalize on the growing momentum of VR to turn consumer heads toward the 18-year-old production.

The video, to be released first on Wired and then later in the day on YouTube and Facebook, marks Broadway’s second foray into VR following a 360 video released by “School of Rock,” which showcased a number from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, filmed in a New York City public school classroom.

Broadway producers such as Disney Theatrical Prods., which has “The Lion King” running on Broadway alongside the more newly-minted success “Aladdin,” are starting to explore the marketing and publicity potential of virtual reality, which is currently having something of a moment as consumer tech (such as Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard) has hit critical mass. Curiosity about virtual reality content can help drive traffic to new VR videos — as was the case with the segment from “School of Rock,” which racked up more than one million views on YouTube and Facebook in less than three days.

As one of the top selling titles on Broadway (often landing in the No. 1 spot in the Top 10 in any given week), “Lion King” may not look like it needs much help in the publicity department. But marketing initiatives like the new 360 video, or like a pop-up exhibit of “Lion King” memorabilia and costume elements that set up shop in Manhattan in 2012, are part of a long game that periodically helps bring consumer attention back around to the Disney property in a crowded, competitive Broadway scene where most of the media coverage tends to be dominated by shows that have just opened or are about to open.

Produced by Total Cinema 360, the “Lion King” video offers a look at the musical’s entire opening number, cutting between a handful of different onstage perspectives. It’s hoped that online attention for the video will help drive sales at “Lion King” not only on Broadway but also at its various incarnations around the world, in cities including London, Tokyo and Mexico City.

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