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The Wide Wild New World of HD Transmissions

October 8, 2013

Ildar Abdrazakov's Mefistofele and Ramon Vargas' Faust were seen in European movie theaters Photo by Cory WeaverSan Francisco Opera is going to town electronically. Just in a few days, these are some of the company activities:

* Live streaming of Mefistofele to European cinemas, Oct. 2

* DVD/Blue-ray release of Moby-Dick and Lucrezia Borgia, Oct. 29

* On PBS' Great Performances, Moby-Dick, Nov. 1

* Live simulcast of Falstaff to Stanford's Frost Amphitheater, Oct 11

* On KQED-TV, SFO has just completed telecasts of Porgy and Bess, Aida, Boris Godunov, and Lucrezia Borgia

With David Gockley's state of the art Koret-Taube Media Suite, the first permanent high-definition broadcast-standard video production facility in an opera house, and the Media Gallery, the company is independent, collaborating — at times — only with Rising Alternative for the European simulcast and EuroArts for the DVD releases. But behold what else is going on in the world of arts-and-electronics.

Chances are your eyes will glaze over this as did mine, but I want this "on the record" so there is a place to find the information.

This was <em>Rigoletto</em> at Stanford; on Oct. 11, it will be <em>Falstaff</em> Photo by S. WallIt's been only a little more than a decade since initial videocasts, such pioneering ventures as Gockley's 1998 Houston "plazacast" of Cenerentola with Bartoli, the Royal Opera House's simulcasts to the Covent Garden plaza, and then, in May of 2006 the San Francisco Opera's first free simulcast to the Civic Center Plaza (of Butterfly). And now, there are hundreds of opera/concert/ballet/theater performances seen live (but no longer free) in movie theaters around the world.

Who is the producer, who pays the bills, who takes in the income?

Beyond the do-it-yourself projects, such as San Francisco's (both the Opera and Symphony), the Royal Opera's telecasts, and the Met's involvement with its now-big business HD simulcasts, there are newly emerging (or recently expanding) media companies involved, such as National CineMedia (NCM)), which (quoting the company):

... operates NCM Media Networks, reaching U.S. consumers in movie theaters, online and through mobile technology. The NCM Cinema Network and NCM Fathom Events present cinema advertising and events across the nation’s largest digital in-theater network, comprised of theaters owned by AMC Entertainment Inc., Cinemark Holdings, Inc., Regal Entertainment Group, and other leading regional theater circuits.

NCM’s theater advertising network covers 183 Designated Market Areas (49 of the top 50) and includes approximately 19,600 screens (approximately 18,800 digital). During 2012, over 710 million patrons attended movies shown in theaters in which NCM currently has exclusive, cinema advertising agreements in place.

The NCM Fathom Events live digital broadcast network is comprised of approximately 750 locations in 173 Designated Market Areas (including all of the top 50). The NCM Interactive Network offers 360-degree integrated marketing opportunities in combination with cinema, encompassing 37 entertainment-related websites, online widgets and mobile applications.

National CineMedia, Inc. owns a 47% interest in and is the managing member of National CineMedia LLC. For more information, see

And, of Arts Alliance Media:

... based in London with offices in Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Oslo, Milan and Berlin, it is the worldwide leader in digital cinema, offering a complete range of services, as well as VPF financing solutions for digital conversion.

These services include installation, maintenance and support for digital cinema systems; world-class software solutions; management and delivery of content to cinemas; and alternative content and live events. AAM has European Virtual Print Fee agreements in place with all six Hollywood studios and has signed over 3,850 VPF screens in multiple territories, including with many leading exhibitors. The company recently activated its Latin American VPF programme with a raft of exhibitor signings in the past weeks. AAM's digital cinema software currently touches approximately 15,000 screens worldwide.

The London-based Network Operations Centre supports over 5,500 digital screens around the world, and the company’s digital cinema lab has mastered over 2500 titles to date, and shipped hundreds of thousands of DCPs. AAM’s strategic partnership with Arqiva allows exhibitors to benefit from satellite delivery of content to cinemas. Arts Alliance Media was founded in 2003 by Thomas Høegh.

And there is "Mr Wolf" (sic):

Founded in 2012 by Alfred Chubb with Arts Alliance Ventures, Mr Wolf produces and finances live events and music based feature films for worldwide distribution on all formats.

This is far from a comprehensive roundup, but it should give an idea of something good, big, burgeoning... and profitable, which may benefit not only the businesses involved, but — one hopes — the performing arts organizations as well.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].