Broadway's 'Memphis' Headed to Movie Theaters

Following on the heels of successful crossover moves into digital distribution for New York's Metropolitan Opera and London's National Theatre, Memphis will be the first ongoing Broadway show to beam a live performance into movie theaters nationwide.

Broadway Worldwide, a company that acquires and distributes electronic rights to Broadway shows, will capture regularly scheduled performances of Memphis Jan. 18-21 at the Shubert Theater. Theatrical rollout is expected to begin in May, with exact dates and screen count to be announced.

The filming will utilize five high-def cameras and 96 tracks of sound recording. Emmy-winning director Don Roy King will lead the production team.

While the final performance of the long-running Broadway hit Rent was filmed for theatrical release, and Legally Blonde: The Musical was broadcast on MTV during its New York run, the decision to make Memphis available digitally represents an aggressive bid by producers to extend brand awareness in anticipation of the Tony-winning show's national tour. That road production debuts next October at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis.

Set in the 1950s in its title city, Memphis chronicles the efforts of a white DJ, based on Dewey Phillips, to break racial barriers and push black Beale Street rock 'n' roll into the mainstream.

Opened in October 2009, the show won four Tonys last year, including best musical, book (by Joe DiPietro), original score (by Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan and DiPietro), and orchestrations.

A rep for the show said national screenings of the filmed performances are likely to be followed by international dates and a DVD release.

Under the artistic management of Peter Gelb, the Metropolitan Opera has had considerable success with its high-def broadcasts.

Britain's National Theater also has seen its brand awareness expand with its NT Live program, which began in 2009 with artistic director Nicholas Hytner's production of Phedre starring Helen Mirrenand Dominic Cooper. Upcoming in that series is the London transfer of Broadway's Afrobeat musical, Fela!