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NT Screens Bennett Habit in Live Cinema Scheme

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The National Theatre has confirmed the three further productions that will be broadcast to cinema screens around the world as part of its new NT Live scheme (See News, 14 Jan 2009).

Following the launch broadcast of a live performance of Phedre, starring Helen Mirren, on 25 June 2009, Marianne Elliott’s production of All’s Well That Ends Wells, featuring Clare Higgins, will hit the big screen on 1 October. And in early 2010, there will be screenings of Mark Ravenhill’s adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s novel Nation as well as the world premiere of Alan Bennett’s latest play The Habit of Art, which stars Michael Gambon, Alex Jennings and Frances de la Tour (See News, 24 Apr 2009).

The NT Live performances will be filmed live at the National in high definition and broadcast via satellite to over 60 UK cinemas outside of London, reaching a widespread audience across the country. The National is working with the Picturehouse, Odeon, Vue and Cineworld chains and a range of independent cinemas and arts centres.

In addition, over 170 venues around the world – including venues in the US, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Scandinavia and continental Europe - will also screen the performance. The global broadcasts are supported by Travelex, which has, for the past seven years, sponsored the National’s hugely popular £10 Season.

Travelex chairman Lloyd Dorfman said in a statement that the company was “immensely proud” of the success of the annual cheap tickets programme and that now “the time is right, as we continue to grow our global business, to keep the offer fresh and enhance our relationship with the National as NT Live extends its international footprint.”

NT artistic director Nicholas Hytner said about NT Live: “We’ve been thrilled by the response of cinemas around the world to this new experiment. It means we can reach tens of thousands of people in addition to our work in London and on tour. And it’s entirely fitting that it’s Travelex who, once again, are enabling us to make this innovation.”

When Hytner first unveiled NT Live at the start of the year, he expressed the hope that at least 10,000 would watch the UK broadcast of Phedre, as opposed to the maximum 900 who could see it on one night in the Lyttelton (See News, 14 Jan 2009).

If the four-show pilot proves successful, NT Live will be rolled out to more NT productions on a year-round basis, with further possibilities for Internet and television access. Each broadcast costs an estimated £50,000. Hytner intends that, through revenue from cinema tickets (charged at £10) and foreign broadcasts, NT Live will eventually become self-funding. “It felt to us that somebody’s got to try this,” Hytner said in January. “If it works, it will be a tremendous step forward.”

Meanwhile, Travelex sponsorship of the £10 Season will end at the conclusion of this year’s run of productions in the NT Olivier in November 2009. The NT is now looking for another headline sponsor but, even without one, next year’s £10 Season will go ahead, as per normal, commencing in April 2010. Hytner said: “The long-standing popularity of the £10 Seasons gives us the confidence to continue them as an indispensable part of the NT’s programming.”

To find out more about NT Live, and to book cinema tickets for the broadcasts, visit the NT Live website.

- by Terri Paddock


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