Last year, one of my favorite films was the amazing visual experience that was “U2-3D,” and not because I’m a fan of the band. I mean, I am, but that’s not what made me love the film. Instead, I flipped for it because I feel like it is a signpost on the road to the future of live performance.
I live in Los Angeles, and any time I want a ticket to see anything live that is even remotely possible, I log onto the Ticketmaster website, enter my credit card information, and then weep bitter tears of failure. No matter if I’m able to sign in ten seconds after a sale starts or not. It is impossible to get good seats for anything here unless you’re willing to go through one of those legal scalpers and pay two years worth of your child’s future college tuition to get the seats. I hate it, and it’s essentially turned me off from being a fan of live music altogether.
But if there was a way for me to go to a theater and pay $25 for a reserved seat and watch a live 3D simulcast of, say, Radiohead live at Wembley Stadium… well, I’d do that for every single artist I’m interested in. I’d do that a few times a month if the programming was available. For bands I love, I wouldn’t have to think twice about it. Watching “U2-3D” wasn’t the same thing as being at a live show… in many ways, it was better. I’ve never had a seat as good as the one offered up by “U2-3D,” especially on an IMAX screen, because there is no such seat. The feeling of being at the live event was overwhelming, but it was like being on a God’s-eye harness, hanging right over the crowd, moving up to the performers at times, then out over the huge Argentinian stadium at other times. A remarkable sensation, and an overwhelming visual experience. Some of that is because Mark Pellington is a very skilled filmmaker with a history of shooting live performance, but the format itself contributed to the feeling.
So, although I’m not a Kenny Chesney fan, I might well be persuaded to check out his upcoming concert film, which is being released by a subdivision of Sony Pictures Releasing. I love that they’ve created The Hot Ticket, an experimental label designed to release live performances via digital distribution. Right now, these are all pre-taped, but I’m sure they’ll eventually test a few live simulcasts as well, once the technology and the screen count are both ready.
One thing that The Hot Ticket has over that miserable Fathom Events label is that The Hot Ticket actually uses the state-of-the-art digital projectors that theaters have been busily installing for the last few years, while Fathom Events (the people behind the theatrical screenings of things like “Poltergeist” lately) uses the pre-show entertainment projectors, meaning they’re basically showing you a sub-par DVD image onscreen, something that isn’t worth your ticket price. You could do better sitting at home. For this sort of thing to work, you have to give the audience something they can’t have at home, something that justifies a trip out, an evening at the theater.
“Kenny Chesney: Summer In 3D” will open in limited engagements in April of 2010, and I sincerely hope it’s a smash hit. I want this sort of thing to catch on, and I want the inevitable evolution of how we use our digitally equipped movie theaters to happen sooner rather than later.
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