San Francisco Opera goes Hollywood

San Francisco Opera General Manager David Gockley, who pioneered open-air free simulcasts years ago when he headed Houston Opera and introduced live simulcasts from the War Memorial Opera House in The City, is back in the lead. 

Today the Opera announced another first: a four-year contract for worldwide distribution of San Francisco Opera productions in what officials are calling “Hollywood feature film quality digital cinema format.”

The partner in the venture is The Bigger Picture, a specialized film distributor and a subsidiary of AccessIT, which provides software for the movie industry.

Initially, close to 200 screens are expected to be used, in markets where theaters have installed digital cinema systems.

The initial Digital Cinema Program will feature four showings each of the company's 2007 productions of Puccini's “La Rondine,” Saint-Saëns' “Samson and Delilah,” Mozart's “The Magic Flute,” Mozart's “Don Giovanni,” “Appomattox,” a new opera by Philip Glass and Christopher Hampton which premiered in October; and Puccini's “Madama Butterfly.”

The announcement touts “the first opera company in the world to utilize technology at this level, including the highest quality projectors with technology from DLP Cinema made by Texas Instruments, a key differentiator from other opera series that are currently playing in theaters on projection systems designed for cinema advertising rather than feature movies.”

The films will be in an all-digital 2K release format, with 5.1 surround sound. The project is supported by Gockley's Koret-Taube Media Suite, the first permanent high-definition, broadcast-standard video production facility installed in any American opera house.

An essential component that will enable the electronic distribution of opera comes from a new agreement with artists and labor unions.

Today, Gockley also announced a tentative four-year “experimental agreement” with unions, under which union members would participate in revenue sharing. The company's significant capital investment in technology allows for revenue sharing from the first dollar earned rather than from any calculation of net profits, says the announcement.

Of the series of agreements with the American Guild of Musical Artists, the American Federation of Musicians and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Gockley told the Examiner that the big change from the conflicts of the past to the cooperation today is based on “respect, trust and honesty, having a sense of one family moving together.”

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