For decades now, every Broadway show (and most off-Broadway offerings as well), have been filmed and then quietly stashed way at TOFT, the Theatre On Film And Tape archive at the Lincoln Center branch of the New York Public Library. Access to the trove is limited to academics and professionals in an industry traditionally allergic to broadcasting live performances when there are still tickets to be sold. Meanwhile, the success of live-streaming services from the Metropolitan Opera and the UK’s NTLive have brought live theater to new audiences.
The latest attempt to bridge the gap is BroadwayHD.com, a new provider of on-demand streaming of shuttered shows and other product. The service launches today with a catalog of some 100 productions, including several recently closed Broadway hits including the musicals Memphis and the Stephen Sondheim revue Putting It Together.
Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley, who have been in the producing consortiums of Tony winners A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder and War Horse, among other shows, created BroadwayHD to present the recent Broadway revival of Romeo And Juliet, with Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad, in movie theaters, much as NTLive does. The streaming service is their next step in bringing live theater to audiences beyond the Theater District.
“We will always be live theater lovers first, so we acted quickly when we saw an unmet opportunity to expand the reach of theater to those that can’t experience it or want to keep experiencing it over and over,” Lane said in announcing the service. “Given advances in streaming technology and the increasing trend of readily available content, we knew that a digital platform that allowed people to experience a theatrical show — a medium that historically is not available beyond the stage — would be monumental.”
The service features original content from Broadway Worldwide’s Direct From Broadway catalog, as well as offerings from BBC Worldwide North America, WNET/New York and more. BroadwayHD may get out of the starting gate more successfully than a long line of would-be competitors, including Broadway Near You, founded by Wall Streeter Ed Greenberg, which hoped to stream the revival of Driving Miss Daisy, with James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury, but is still raising capital, according to its website. (The show, filmed with the stars during its Australian tour, was seen on public television’s “Great Performances” series.)