Netflix for theater. It’s here.

Ok. It’s not here here.  It’s over there here.  Like in the UK.

The Brits beat us to the screen this week when went online with a few titles of taped theatrical productions that can be viewed in the privacy of your own home.

DigitalTheatre’s plan is to create a “library of diverse and acclaimed productions from some of the finest theatre talent around.”

They’ve got a production of Far From The Madding Crowd up right now available for 8.99 GBP (or about $15 bucks) and are promising more in the future.

Here are a couple of statements from the contributing theatres:

We’re always looking for ways to bring our work to the largest possible number of people. And the potential of digital technology to connect with a worldwide audience is genuinely exciting.

– Dominic Cooke, Royal Court

There needs to be a revolutionising of the capture of live theatre, and we are enjoying the pursuit of that ambition with Digital Theatre.

– Michael Boyd, Royal Shakespeare Company.

These guys have got it right.  A video revolution is coming.  It has to be.  Our attendance is waning.  A new audience isn’t being born.  It’s getting harder to pull people away from screens and get them into a theater.

So perhaps we use what has been our greatest fear (those screens) and turn it into an asset.

PBS has done it in the past. And seeing Into The Woods and Sweeney on TV certainly didn’t deter me from seeing those shows live when they came back to Broadway.

The Met has been successful in putting operas in movie theaters around the country.  My 80-year-old Dad loves them, and now he wants to come to NYC to see an opera more than ever.

– Legally Blonde didn’t lose all of its business here in NYC after a couple of plays on MTV.  And the tour is doing quite well . . . hmmmm.

– The Rent final performance DVD was pretty dang cool (I bought it), and even better than the movie in my opinion.

Of all of the options out there now, I think the Rent model is what could work the best.  Take a show that is closing, memorialize it, market it and use it to get people excited about another show live.

It’s like distributing a DVD after the movie has left the theaters.

The unions would have to play ball to make this financially feasible, but if the show is closing, shouldn’t they be more inclined to do it?  If all of the employees who worked on the show while it was being taped got a piece of future sales?  It’s found money for the employees (and the union benefit funds), and since the show would be closing, there shouldn’t be any fear that the Producers would be benefiting from the taped production as a promotional tool for Broadway (there is a question about using it to promote sub rights and tours, but certainly a profit participation for the union employees could make up for it).

The Digital Theatre folks are on to something.  And we better get on it as well, and stop guarding what we do like it’s the Queen.

Because this could be one of the few ways we have left to get what we do out to the masses.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.