L.A. Philharmonic kills series of live broadcasts to cinemas

Gustavo Dudamel conducts the L.A. Phil.
(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

When the Los Angeles Philharmonic launched its series of live broadcasts to cinemas in 2011, the organization touted it as an innovative program intended to broaden the popular reach of the orchestra and its star conductor, Gustavo Dudamel.

But two seasons later, the orchestra has had to pull the plug on the series due to a difficult economic environment.

Deborah Borda, president of the orchestra, said in a statement that the L.A. Phil Live series “was not able to garner the sponsorship required to move forward,” despite corporate support from Rolex, the luxury watchmaker that was the official sponsor of the cinema series.


Borda said that the broadcasts required “intensive financial and staff resources” and that the orchestra was considering “future presentations on a one-off basis.”

The L.A. Philharmonic was one of the first major orchestras to attempt a regular series of live broadcasts to movie theaters. L.A. Phil Live featured a total of six broadcasts over two seasons, as well as a number of repeat screenings.

The high-definition transmissions were taped during live performances at Walt Disney Concert Hall, with the exception of the Feb. 18 broadcast of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 in Caracas, Venezuela, which was beamed to theaters around the world.

The orchestra partnered with NCM Fathom Events, a Denver company that specializes in live cinema transmissions, such as the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series and various sporting events. A company spokeswoman said the L.A. Phil Live series reached as many as 460 movie theaters in the U.S. (The Metropolitan Opera is broadcasting to about 750 cinemas nationwide this season.) In Canada, the orchestra reached approximately 47 cinemas, according to a spokeswoman for Cineplex Entertainment, a Canadian exhibitor.

Both the L.A. Philharmonic and Fathom declined to provide U.S. attendance figures. Cineplex could not provide attendance figures for Canada, but the spokeswoman said, “We didn’t get the attendance in our locations that we had hoped for with these events.”

Tickets to an L.A. Phil Live screening cost more than an average movie ticket but were cheaper than attending a performance at Disney Hall. Prices varied around the country, with an average adult ticket costing $20, according to Fathom.

Other orchestras that have launched regular live broadcasts include the Berlin Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

L.A. Phil Live’s last broadcast was in March — a pre-recorded concert featuring Herbie Hancock at the orchestra’s 2011-12 season-opening gala.

The orchestra’s broadcasts usually featured a celebrity presence. Vanessa Williams and John Lithgow have served as hosts. A 2011 concert broadcast featured Orlando Bloom performing selections from “Romeo and Juliet” in a program of Tchaikovsky’s Shakespeare-inspired music.


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