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Metropolitan Opera Live in HD (also known as The Met: Live in HD) is a series of live opera performances transmitted in high-definition video via satellite from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City to select venues, primarily movie theaters, in the United States and other parts of the world. The first transmission was of a condensed English-language version of Mozart's The Magic Flute on December 30, 2006.
To transmit the series via satellite simulcast in the US and Canada, the Met has partnered with NCM Fathom, a division of National CineMedia. The series is broadcast to AMC Theatres, Cinemark, Cineplex Entertainment, Regal Entertainment Group (Regal Cinemas, United Artists and Edwards), Goodrich, Kerasotes, Marcus and National Amusements movie theaters as well as a series of independent venues such as arts centres and college campuses. Its aims include building a larger audience for the Met and garnering excitement for arts at a local level.
The original idea for presenting operas in this way came from the new incoming general manager of the Met, Peter Gelb in late 2006. Exhibiting the Met's performances in digital movie theaters is in line with other audience-expanding efforts by the Met such as radio broadcasts on Sirius Radio, iPod downloads, live streaming video on the Met website, and free opening night screenings in Times Square and at Lincoln Center. The Met is also sponsoring free HD broadcasts into selected New York City public schools.
The simulcasts allow more people to experience the excitement of the Met's high-quality performance offerings. This audience includes current opera fans unable to get to New York City to see the shows in person and potential opera fans looking for an easy, affordable method of checking out a new art form.
Tom Galley, chief operations and technology officer of National CineMedia, describes the experience by saying:
This Metropolitan Opera series is a unique opportunity for people to experience world-class opera in their local community, plus the movie theatre environment and affordable ticket price make these events something that the entire family can enjoy. If you’ve never had the pleasure of attending a live opera performance before, this is the perfect opportunity to see why this magical art form has captured audiences’ imaginations for generations.
In the US, the series has also been broadcast in both high definition and regular TV as part of the Public Broadcasting Service's Great Performances series. In addition, selected performances can now be viewed online.
The first season included seven theatres in Britain, two in Japan and one in Norway. After its successful launch, several other countries joined for the second season and 100 screens were added, selling an additional 20,000 tickets. These included cinemas in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
2008 saw the network expand even further to include more screens in the countries named above plus other countries such as Australia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Argentina (Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata), and Poland, as well as the territory of Puerto Rico.
Reaction in the British press has been positive:
...opera is, in fact, managing to find new audiences, all over the world. Down at the Ritzy, my local cinema in Brixton, London, I've been able, since December, to see live broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera in New York...
The author Peter Conrad, praised Gelb's showmanship:
The relays are the brainchild of the Met's new general manager, Peter Gelb, or one of his innumerable brainchildren, part of a campaign both to rejuvenate the Met's audience in New York and to welcome what he calls 'the global opera community' into the fold. When I met Gelb in New York last week, I told him I'd decided that seeing The Barber in Clapham (just south of central London) was actually better than being at the Met. 'Oh no, that's bad,' he groaned. 'We must be doing too good a job.
As of 2011[update] six Metropolitan Opera employees work full-time on Live in HD. About 40 people work on the technical aspects of each broadcast, with one comparing the scale of the logistics to the preshow coverage of the Emmy or Academy Awards. Host Renée Fleming volunteers her services. No same-day substitution of a major cast member for a Live in HD performance was necessary until January 2010, perhaps because of the appeal of performing for a worldwide audience and the opportunity to appear on the subsequent DVD of the broadcast.
Movie and radio broadcast revenue increased for the Met from about $5 million in 2006, Live in HD's first year, to $22 million in 2008, with Live in HD contributing the bulk of the growth. For the 2009-2010 season, the Met spent about $12 million in production and received about half of the $47 million box-office gross. After paying royalties to its cast and crew, the Met earned a $8 million profit. Live in HD revenue for the 2012-2013 season was $34.5 million.
According to a 2008 study commissioned by Opera America, most Live in HD attendees were "moderate and frequent opera goers". About one in five, however, did not attend a live opera performance in the previous two years, with some being completely new to opera and attending because of curiosity about it. The majority claimed to equally enjoy broadcast and live opera, and more than half stated they would "very likely" attend an opera performance at the Met if visiting New York. A 2011 University of British Columbia thesis found that "Live in HD does not at present cannibalize the local live opera audience ... [but t]here is no evidence that [it] generates more live opera attendance or brings new audiences into local opera houses".
Beginning on December 30, 2006, as part of the company's effort to build revenues and attract new audiences, the Met broadcast a series of six performances live via satellite into movie theaters.
The series was carried in over 100 movie theaters across North America plus others in Britain, Japan and one in Norway.
During this season, the series included:
In addition, limited repeat showings of the operas were offered in most of the presenting cities. Within the US, digital sound for the performances was provided by Sirius Satellite Radio.
These movie transmissions were successful at the box office as well as having received wide and generally favorable press coverage. The Met reports that 91% of available seats were sold for the HD performances. According to General Manager Peter Gelb, there were 60,000 people in cinemas around the world watching the March 24 transmission of The Barber of Seville. The New York Times reported that 324,000 tickets were sold worldwide for the 2006/07 season, while each simulcast cost $850,000 to $1 million to produce.
Due to the success of the first season, the Metropolitan Opera decided to increase the number of HD broadcasts to movie theaters from six to eight during the 2007/2008 season. Further, the number of available theaters expanded to 330 across the US and additional countries throughout the world.
The first showing on December 15, 2007, Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, was seen on 477 screens and sold an estimated 97,000 tickets. The series continued by featuring seven more of the Met's productions following Roméo et Juliette and ending with La fille du régiment on April 26, 2008.
The Met planned to broadcast to double the number of theaters in the US compared with the previous season, as well as to additional countries. The number of participating venues in the US, which includes movie theatre chains as well as independent theatres and some college campus venues, was 343. While "the scope of the series expands to include more than 700 locations across North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.... The Met has said that it hopes to reach as many as one million audience members with this season's HD transmissions"
The schedule of live broadcasts included:
By the end of the season, 920,000 people – exceeding the total number of people who attended live performances at the Met over the entire season – attended the 8 screenings bringing in a gross of $13.3 million from North America and $5 million from overseas.
The HD season for 2008/2009 included 11 productions, including the Opening Night Gala on September 22, 2008, (broadcast in North America only).
As of February 2009, over 1.1 million tickets to HD broadcasts had been sold.
The season for 2013/14 features HD transmissions of 10 operas.
The 2014-15 season will present 12 operas in 10 broadcasts, including (for the first time in the series) two "double-bills" where two short operas will be broadcast together on the same program.