London’s National Theatre Launches SVOD Platform

In a sign of the pandemic times, London’s National Theatre has launched a subscription streaming video service featuring VOD access to past stage productions. National Theatre at Home costs $12.99 monthly or $129.99 annually. For access to a single play in a 72-hour window, it will be $8 for an archive title and National Theatre Live titles are available from $10.99.

The service launches with productions, including the first-ever National Theatre Live, “Phèdre” with Helen Mirren (The Queen), “Othello” with Adrian Lester and the Young Vic’s “Yerma” with Billie Piper, new titles from the NT’s catalog of filmed stage production will be added to the platform every month. In addition to productions previously broadcast to cinemas by National Theatre Live, a selection of plays filmed for the NT’s Archive will be released online for the first time, including Lucy Kirkwood’s “Mosquitoes” with Olivia Colman (“The Crown”) and Inua Ellams’ new version of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”.

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National Theatre at Home’s digital streaming offer was first made available in the U.K. during the first COVID-19 lockdown when theaters and cinemas were shuttered. For 16 weeks from the beginning of April until the end of July, productions were made available for free on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel, which were then available on-demand for seven days. This resulted in over 15 million views for 16 productions over four months and reached 173 countries around the world.

“From homemade tickets to interval drinks, ‘NT at Home’ is a way of making people feel more connected … after what has been a very tough
2020 for so many,” Lisa Burger, executive director and joint chief executive of the National Theatre, said in a statement. “And so, since the last [free] stream finished in July, we have been determined to find a way to give our audiences access to these stunning filmed productions online once again.”

Netflix Gives $620,000 to Aid Unemployed British Stage/Theater Workers

Subscription streaming video pioneer Netflix has heeded the call from Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) to financially assist unemployed British stage/theater workers due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — jumpstarting a non-government aid campaign with $620,000 (£500,000) in seed money.

The fund, which includes fiscal input from Mendes, The Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, offers upwards of £1,000 to anyone who worked in British theater from 2019 through March 31, 2020.

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The funding seeks to assist personnel not covered by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s $2 billion (£1.57 billion) cultural relief program, which includes independent movie theaters.

“Playwrights and directors, theater artists and performers, composers and comedians, are the lifeblood of our industry too and, while Netflix has been more fortunate than many, in the end we are only as strong as the people we work with,” Anne Mensah,VP of original series at Netflix, said in a statement.

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Before joining Netflix in 2018, Mensah was director of drama at Sky Studios in the U.K. She also was head of independent drama at the BBC in a previous position.

Indeed, Netflix has profited during the COVID-19 pandemic, generating record first-quarter (ended March 31) subscription growth and users with much of the entertainment industry shutdown. The streamer reports Q2 (ended June 30) results on July 16.

Mendes, in an op-ed last month in The Financial Times, implored entertainment businesses doing well during the pandemic to contribute.

“It would be deeply ironic if the streaming services —Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, et al — should be making lockdown millions from our finest acting, producing, writing and directing talent, while the very arts culture that nurtured that talent pool is allowed to die,” Mendes wrote. “Is there anyone among those people willing to use a fraction of their COVID-19 windfall to help those who have been mortally wounded?”

Theater SVOD Service Ups Stage Play Slate

Cennarium, the over-the-top video service streaming performing arts productions, is expanding distribution to include Amazon, in addition to pay-TV and partnerships with other vendors.

The stage performances, which include musicals, drama, opera, ballet and dance, magic and comedies recorded live in high-definition, are available to rent on Amazon for $1.99 or purchase for $4.99.

“We are increasing our distribution to include other streaming services to give audiences more options for viewing theatrical productions,” CEO Themis Gomes said in a statement. “Making our content available for streaming on Amazon will help us reach out to and engage with Amazon buyers so they can gain access to some of the best theatrical content from around the world.”

Performances available to stream include:

Cyrano de Bergerac (Comedy, France); Romeo and Juliet (Drama, Brazil); Martha Graham Dance Company (United States); Dangerous Liaisons (Musical, Germany); Blithe Spirit (Comedy, Brazil); Popcorn (Drama, Brazil); The Whipped Cream (Dance, Germany); The Day Sam Died (Drama, Brazil); The Seagull (Comedy, Russia); Fuensanta La Moneta (Dance, Spain); Smoke and Mirrors (Magic, United States); A Year Later (Drama, Italy); A Happy End (Drama, United States); Battlefield (Drama, Brazil); Punishment Without Revenge (Drama, Spain); The Liar (Comedy, Italy) and The School of Scandal (Comedy, Portugal).