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Movie theaters diversify offerings beyond films

Amid a long-term decline in theater attendance, cinema operators nationwide are screening more concerts, plays, operas, boxing matches and sports events.

June 12, 2012|By Richard Verrier, Los Angeles Times

Another success has been New York's Metropolitan Opera, which began broadcasting its operas in movie houses in 2006. In April, more than 350,000 people in theaters and cultural centers across North America and around the world watched a broadcast of Verdi's "La Traviata."

"It's a profit stream for us, which we sorely need as a nonprofit corporation with a huge budget," said Peter Gelb, general manager for the Metropolitan Opera. "It's a great artistic and marketing tool for the opera house."

Not all events make money. Box-office revenue alone doesn't always cover costs, often requiring third-party sponsors to defray expenses. Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp. discontinued screenings of the San Francisco Opera after determining it was too costly. And rights from major sports leagues are expensive, with television networks such as ESPN demanding hefty license fees to show live sporting events.

Still, many people believe that a larger satellite system will be more appealing to TV networks and sports leagues because it will give them the ability to reach a wider audience for live award shows and games.

"Before, it was tough to negotiate because you didn't have access to thousands of screens," Cinemark CEO Tim Warner said. "Now you have scaleability."

richard.verrier@latimes.com

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