NEW YORK (MainStreet) — One of the successes touted by Peter Gelb during his term as the Metropolitan Opera's general manager has been the development of the group's Live in HD program, live operas broadcast to many theaters around the world in high-definition video.
The goals of the program when it was launched in 2006 were to generate additional revenue for the company using available resources, to widen the impact of Met Opera productions globally and to cultivate new audiences for opera in general. Eight years on, revenue has clearly grown, but the rest remains a nagging question mark.
Is Live in HD good for regional opera companies or for opera in general? Is it good for the Met?
Gelb himself noted the complexity of the question in public interviews last year when he used the word "cannibalization" to describe a tick down in ticket sales at the group's home in Lincoln Center as a result of the Live in HD broadcasts in the New York City area.
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On the whole, however, the numbers at the movie theater box office seem to show that Live in HD is a hit. The performances are often well attended and generate between 8% and 10% of total revenue, making it the third largest source of revenue for the company, behind contributions and live performance box office receipts.
According to the Met, the gross box office for those broadcasts was around $60 million for the 2012-2013 season, the most recent for which figures were available. The Met splits that revenue with the theaters, winding up with $28.0 million revenue for itself, putting the project $17.1 million into the green. For the same period, the nonprofit opera company had total operating revenue of $324 million.
Internationally, the program has generated huge audiences and bolstered interest in the Met's productions. In the U.S., theater attendance varies by town, but the overall numbers are strong. So notwithstanding any dip in Lincoln Center ticket sales, from the Met's perspective, the program does appear an unqualified success.
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Regional opera companies, however, aren't seeing a similar benefit.