Thinking outside the box office:

New report cites digital strategy as vital to survival of theatre in Canada

TORONTO, Jan. 31, 2012 /CNW/ - A new report, entitled Beyond the Curtain: How Digital Media Is Reshaping Theatre, warns that performing arts companies in Canada will struggle to compete with foreign content unless they embrace digital technology as a means of finding new audiences for theatrical productions.

"The remarkable achievement of this report is that it has brought together unions, performing arts producers and content creators to discuss what is becoming a very serious issue affecting Canadian theatre," says veteran Canadian television producer Craig Thompson, author of the report.

According to the report, Canadian live theatre is facing stiffer competition for entertainment dollars from the proliferation of new digital platforms. In an environment in which funding for the arts is declining and broadcasters are turning away from traditional performing arts programming, capturing live performance for digital distribution has become more important than ever as a source of revenue.  The report argues that the re-purposing of live theatre for cinema screens and the Internet offers an exciting opportunity to reach a broader audience and generate additional revenue.

"We want to ensure that Canadian audiences have access to Canadian performing arts productions wherever and whenever they choose to view it," says Arden Ryshpan, Executive Director of Canadian Actors' Equity Association, which represents stage performers and is one of the partners in the report. "We don't want the only thing available to be a foreign opera, ballet or theatre company."

The Canadian theatre industry is finding it challenging to keep pace with the number of foreign productions on cinema screens, such as The Met: Live in HD and National Theatre Live, both of which are attracting large audiences. The report warns that Canada will fall behind unless new funding models are made available to re-purpose homegrown theatrical content for digital platforms — with or without broadcaster involvement.

"Our industry is well aware of the need to embrace the digital reality and make the arts more accessible on different platforms," says Jacoba Knaapen, Executive Director of the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, which represents 187 theatre, dance and opera companies in the Greater Toronto Area. "This report highlights this need in the strongest possible way and is an important step in moving our industry forward in that direction."

The study also recommends theatre producers and unions accelerate the pace of discussions and negotiations to ensure barriers to rapid adoption of content re-purposing and digital media applications are removed. It further calls for the availability of innovation funding to allow theatre companies to experiment with all facets of digital media and technology.

The study was led by Ballinran Entertainment with funding from the OMDC Entertainment and Creative Cluster Partnerships Fund.  Other partners in the study included Digital Wizards, Canadian Actors' Equity Association and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. The study included an on-line survey and interviews with the theatre and performing arts community in Canada and abroad.

The report is available at:

SOURCE Ballinran

For further information:

Mary Powers, MPowers Communications +1 416 767 8692

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