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Live broadcasts of theater plays gaining popularity

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-06-05 07:50

A new form of theater, which can be watched on the big screen, is gaining favor among young Chinese audiences. It was announced on Wednesday in Beijing that a new season starting from July will include 23 new titles from various live-theater broadcasting projects from London, Moscow and Broadway.

This is in addition to a list of 23 productions that have already been screened in 21 cities across the Chinese mainland and Taiwan over the past two years, according to Beijing-based ATW Culture Media Ltd, a distributor of National Theatre Live.

"This is the third year we have brought theater live to the China market, and we have seen a tremendous increase in the number of viewers and venues," says Li Congzhou, CEO, ATW Culture.

In 2009, the Royal National Theatre in London started its NT Live initiative, which broadcasts high-definition live performances of their productions to cinemas and arts venues around the world. The new form soon became a hit among theater lovers.

The project was officially introduced to China in 2015. Since then, 39 venues have joined the program, attracting 150,000 viewers with more than 1,000 screenings.

The ticket price is set at 120 yuan ($17).

Chen Qiaoyi, a bank clerk in her 20s, has watched five NT live performances in Beijing. She first learned about it from a friend who liked the British actor Tom Hiddleston, who featured in the first series of NT Live screenings in China.

"I was more immersed in the play than I expected," says Chen. "The shooting was great. Most plays come in small theater productions. This was shot from different angles. It maximizes what it feels like to be on the spot."

Chen is typical of the current foreign-theater audience in China. ATW Culture's Li identifies them as mainly between 20 to 35 years old, female and well-educated. Most are fans of US and British television and films.

In recent years, China has caught the world's attention with its fast-growing entertainment industry and an increasingly sophisticated audience. Award-winning musical classics such as Avenue Q and Wicked, and more experimental productions, such as Sleep No More, have all tested the China market.

In addition to new screenings, Wednesday also witnessed the launch of the First International Theater Live Festival, which ATW Culture expects to play a role in promoting the new format to a wider audience.

He says he hopes more middle school students can start to appreciate theater live to hone their language skills and cultural knowledge.

As a new format of theater embracing modern technology, it is also helping to upgrade the performing arts scene in China.

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