Passion and Paradox: ‘Messiah’ at the cinema, part 3

We’re thrilled to be working with event cinema experts CinemaLive in bringing Handel’s Messiah from Bristol Old Vic to cinemas across the UK and Ireland. This dramatised production, in cinemas for one night only (Wednesday 28th March 2018), retells the Easter story in a striking new way.

John Travers is Head of Distribution at CinemaLive. He has over 17 years experience in the cinema industry, working both as an exhibitor and distributor of films and events. He was a founding board member of the Event Cinema Association.

We spoke to him about bringing Messiah to a cinema screen near you.

Hi John, thanks for speaking with us! Event cinema is something that really seems to have taken off in recent years. Can you tell me a bit about CinemaLive’s vision for what you do, and what you’ve got to offer?

JT: Our goal is to provide audiences worldwide with access to premium events at their own local cinema. There are so many great events that for various reasons people can’t attend – some events sell out fast, like this production of Messiah. Sometimes people can’t make performance dates, or afford the cost of tickets or travel.

We feel there’s an audience out there that wants to experience these things, and we choose events – regardless of genre – that appeal beyond the confines of the venue.

Clearly, the experience of seeing a theatrical production on the screen at the cinema will be different in some ways from being in the theatre while it’s happening. Do you think anything is lost in translation? Are there any upsides to experiencing live productions on the big screen?

JT: What’s lost is the experience of being in the theatre with the actors – you can never replicate that. But we’ve had audience feedback from people who saw both the venue and cinema event: they say that the cinema surround sound and presentation means you don’t miss out on any dialogue and you’re able to experience the actors emotions up close. You see and hear more – that’s something you gain.

When you come to the cinema you’re seeing a director’s vision. You’re getting an interpretation, which may allow you to pick up on significant or subtle moments because you’re being guided. You don’t get close-ups in an an actual theatre, and they allow you to see the emotion on a actor or a singer’s face, everything they’re putting into it.

Also, there are no bad seats in the cinema. Wherever you’re sat you’re seeing everything that’s happening. 

It’s often said that, due to the ‘golden age of TV’ and the rise of streaming services, people are less inclined now to make the effort of a cinema trip. How is CinemaLive helping to make the cinema a special place again?

JT: I love my TV, I have Netflix and Amazon. But I definitely feel that shared experience is key, now more than ever. The internet brings us together but also polarises us, so experiencing something as part of an audience is even more special now.

With CinemaLive we’re connecting with an audience that hasn’t gone to the cinema for a long time – we skew to an older demographic (though we’re working on reaching younger people too). Older people are coming to the cinema to watch these shows, and it means they’re more likely to go and see films too. We’re re-educating them as to what cinema can be: the idea that it’s a place that’s not just for a younger generation, that they can feel at home there. Event cinema experiences can be slightly more old school and personalised, which creates a nice environment.

‘The internet brings us together but also polarises us, so experiencing something as part of an audience is even more special now.’

Why do you think it’s important that we continue to experience art and culture as part of a community?

JT: There’s something intrinsically human about watching a story being told and talking about it afterwards. This production of Messiah is exploring faith, which is quite unique – there’s a passionate and underserved audience for those ideas. We hope people will come away and have that dialogue with others who’ve seen it. This is a starting point for other questions and conversations.

CinemaLive has broadcast everything from Shakespeare, ballet and opera to Bruce Springsteen and Take That concerts. What caught your eye about this production of Messiah?

JT: With event cinema you’re usually looking for a star, a name brand or lead actor – that’s the hook. But with this production there are no stars. We just knew there would be a passionate audience for something so unique which was asking questions about faith.

It’s a fantastic production. By putting it out at Easter time, we’re hoping that the audience can celebrate and have a communal experience.

‘We knew there would be a passionate audience for something so unique which was asking questions about faith.’

Who do you hope will see this production, and what do you hope they’ll take from it?

JT: No-one’s done a production of Messiah quite like this. Even the performers onstage are saying they’ve never done it like this before, and it’s given them a greater sense of what Handel was trying to achieve.

We hope as many people as possible see it – you’ll come away thinking, that was very special and unique. We want to connect with the widest possible audience, and we think people will come away being pleased they decided to take a risk.

In Cinemas Wednesday March 28, one night only. Tickets on sale now.

Read parts 1 and 2. The final part of our Messiah blog series will be coming next week.

Sophie Lister is the editor of the Damaris Media blog

Published by

Sophie Lister

Damaris resources bring films to new audiences, start conversations, and enrich lives. Find out more at Here at the Damaris Film Blog, we publish regular discussion guides to help you make the most of the latest cinema releases.

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