For the past several years, the world of high-end live theater, opera and ballet has been somewhat transformed by the advent of high-definition theatrical streaming.
The worldwide transition went from traditional 35mm film projection to a new universal standard of digital cinema projection. Respected, well-financed organizations such as the Metropolitan Opera, the Bolshoi Ballet and Britain’s National Theatre Co. now digitally film most or all of their productions up close and in crystal clear audio and video, which can then be shown in hundreds or even thousands of movie theaters across the globe.
The performances can be saved and shown long after the fact or simulcast live in real-time as these performances actually occur. This allows world-class dance, theater and classical music concerts to be shown in cities and towns which would otherwise never be graced by the touring companies of such prestigious outfits. This is a real game-changer and one heck of an entertainment option for those who appreciate such things. Plus, these digital streaming versions offer an added element not available to the folks who actually attend the live shows: cinematography.
I have met many live theater, opera and ballet enthusiasts who prefer these screened-in-a-cinema events over a live performance. The multiple angles, close-up views and optimized sound reproduction often afford audience members a better “seat” than they could ever pay for at an actual show — and at a fraction of the price of a ticket to the real deal.
With all that in mind, may I remind folks in our area that SCAD has been bringing a broad swath of such high-quality events to downtown’s historic Lucas Theatre, at rather amazingly low prices compared to virtually every other multiplex or cinema in the rest of the country that’s also opting into these unique programming choices. Case in point: on May 10, the Lucas will present the U.K.’s National Theater Co.’s new production of Shakespeare’s classic wartime family tragedy “Macbeth,” starring Rory Kinnear and Anne-Marie Duff.
This eerie, tense tale of the darkest sides of political ambition and the supposed connections between worldly power and the realm of the supernatural is 3 ½ hours long. It is helmed by acclaimed director Rufus Norris (“The Threepenny Opera”). The particular performance on display is being shot just one week before it appears in cinemas, which allows the visuals and audio mix to be tweaked for maximum clarity and impact. The chance to see a British stage production of this caliber for no more than $15 and as little as $5 (student ticket price) makes it a can’t-miss proposition.
Can’t make this one-night-only 7 p.m. show? Well, the following week, on May 17, the exact same performance film will be shown at the Regal Stadium 10, and in Bluffton, S.C. at the Cinemark. However, at both of those venues, admission is a straight $23.54 across the board, which is more along the lines of what most theaters here in the States charge to see such high-def streaming plays.
Speaking of the Regal Stadium 10, on May 12, find another high-def digital stage performance for a special encore matinee. It’s the Off-Broadway sensation “Puffs” aka “Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic.” With tongue planted firmly in cheek, this unauthorized, low-rent satirical homage to the world of “Harry Potter” is packed with enough inside-jokes and familiar subject matter to bring a smile to the face of most any devoted fan of J.K. Rowling’s internationally bestselling series of youth-oriented fantasy novels. Showtime is 12:55 p.m. for this brazen slice of nerd-culture appropriation. Admission info for this and all other Film Scene events can be found in the accompanying sidebar.
The following afternoon, the Regal is also the site of another of the TCM cable channel’s occasional national re-releases of a classic piece of Hollywood artistry. This time out, they’re presenting a two-day engagement of the meticulously restored version of iconic director Billy Wilder’s multiple Oscar-winning 1950 film-biz film noir “Sunset Boulevard,” starring William Holden, Gloria Swanson and Erich von Stroheim.
Nominated for a stunning 11 Academy Awards, this tale of an aging, delusional female movie star and the younger, desperate screenwriter she charms with her unrealistic dreams of making a successful comeback is routinely named by critics and film historians as not only one of the finest motion pictures of its era, but also one of the finest of all time.
Alternately described as a horror film, a black comedy, a drama and a crime flick, it’s something of an unexpected mélange of all those genres, and is generally accepted to be the finest movie ever made about the harsh realities of the behind-the-scenes world of Golden Age Hollywood. It will screen twice each day at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. May 13 and 16. Exclusive bonus content from TCM will bring the running time to right at two hours.
‘How many roads ...’
Heading back downtown, on May 16, the Psychotronic Film Society’s long-running weekly series of underappreciated and/or rare feature films continues at The Sentient Bean with a somewhat unusual variation on its standard fare. That night, in honor of the impending 77th birthday of the great singer-songwriter, author and artist Bob Dylan, the PFS will exclusively screen a special two-hour collection of live clips of Dylan and his band in concert, none of which have ever been officially commercially released, and most of which have never been seen publicly.
Curated by yours truly, these excellent-quality clips will be sequenced chronologically, and contain material recorded clandestinely from 1991 to 2017 at Bob Dylan shows all over the world. The cumulative effect is that of being an audience member at an imaginary concert featuring songs spanning the Bard’s entire career, often rearranged drastically to conform to the densely layered style of eclectic Americana he introduced on his 1997 Grammy-winning Album of the Year “Time Out of Mind,” and which continues through his latest albums and current tour.
This screening is recommended not only for diehard enthusiasts of his work, but also for those with merely a passing interest in just what makes Dylan such an enigmatic and charismatic figure in the world of popular culture. Immediately prior to the screening, there will be a raffle for a variety of Dylan-related merchandise and rare, unreleased recordings known only to private collectors. Showtime is 8 p.m.
Frankie and Annette
And finally, on May 17, the Tybee Post Theater hosts another in its “Date Night” series of well-known popcorn movies from days gone by. This time out, it’s the lighthearted 1965 B&W romantic adventure-comedy “Beach Blanket Bingo” starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Considered perhaps the best of the squeaky-clean movies this perky duo co-headlined in the 1960s for the delightfully cheap American International Pictures (it was the fifth in this particular series), its script is filled to the brim with ridiculous plot twists, goofy hijinks, red herrings and pop music of the time.
In the midst of all the mermaids, outlaw bikers and kidnappers, look for appearances by future “Hollywood Squares” star Paul Lynde, as well as comedy legends Don Rickles and Buster Keaton and future “Dynasty” star Linda Evans in a featured role. This is an earnest if dated tale of youthful opposition to adult culture, and makes for a delightfully retro version of an America that has vanished forever. Showtime is 7 p.m. admission price includes a drink of your choice (alcoholic or soft) and a piece of chocolate.
Until next issue, see you at the movies, be kind to those around you and don't forget to turn off that cell phone.
Jim Reed directs the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah.