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Got Live If You Want It
18 Nov 2014 : Paul Byrne
Increasingly, people are turning to cinema not just for film but for theatre, for opera, museum exhibitions, even for 3D tours of the Vatican. Paul Byrne takes a look at the rise and rise of Event Cinema.

It may have been dismissed by some as a novelty in its early stages, but there’s no denying that Event Cinema - live broadcasts on your local big screen - have become big business.

Last year, the UK box-office was £18m - which was more than double the 2012 take. By September of this year, the UK box-office for Event Cinema had already hit £23m, thanks to an ever-expanding range of genres being covered by this curious but growing cinema side-line. Theatre is still centre stage, but the likes of opera and dance have been joined now by museum exhibitions (most notably the V&A ‘David Bowie Is’ hit), sport, stand-up comedy, TV, music and, most recently, the Holy City. There’s a 3D tour of the Vatican’s museums and the Sistine Chapel screening tonight, in Dublin’s Cineworld and the Light House Cinema.

For Ross Keane, director of the Irish Film Institute, the appeal is simple. ‘Audiences are enthusiastic about getting the opportunity to see events and productions that they would otherwise not get to experience,’ he says.

It’s a win-win situation, as far as Keane is concerned, for both cinemas and the theatres, museums and, eh, Vaticans, etc. ‘It’s essentially bringing their product to audiences who may not otherwise experience it,’ he explains, ‘which is beneficial for the brand, their art-form and, at the end of the day, their revenue, as it’s bringing in income streams from admissions that are no longer limited to the size of one theatre hall.’

The IFI is just one of many cinemas in Ireland who have found a whole new income stream from these unlikely mash-ups, with the likes of The Light House, Cineworld, Movies@Dundrum and Dun Laoghaire’s IMC all happily finding space in their schedules for Event Cinema.

And things can only get better. Within reason, reckons Keane.

‘I believe there is still growth in it, but, like most things, it’s never going to appeal to everyone,’ he says. ‘We exhibited our first live event in June 2009, with the NT Live production of ‘Phedre’, starring Helen Mirren. There was some initial reluctance as some people felt it wasn’t really theatre since it was being filmed, while others considered it not to be real film because it’s theatre, in essence. But there are many others who are intrigued by, and interested in, the format.’

So, where to from here for Event Cinema? ‘People like the communal experience of watching big events live together,’ finishes Keane, ‘so there are probably many more untapped events that people haven’t yet thought of.’

Hmm, is there Live On Mars...?

The Vatican Museums 3D is on in Cineworld and the Light House Cinema tonight, Tuesday Nov 18th 2014.




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