Q & A: Fathom Events CEO John Rubey on Bringing the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD Series to Life

One of the greatest achievements of general manager Peter Gelb’s tenure is his Live in HD series, which has enabled audiences from around the world to experience opera in movie theaters.

That undertaking has generated a tremendous following that has resulted in home video releases and encore performances, which are slated to take over coming weeks around the world. With this series, the Met has been able to showcase new and old productions of some of the greatest operas with some of the world’s most prominent artists.

But this undertaking could never have come to fruition without the partnership Gelb has formed with Fathom Events and its CEO John Rubey. Fathom Events recently announced that it will not only be broadcasting the original transmission of all 10 Live in HD performances for this season but will also feature two encore performances for each show. And for those interested in experiencing opera in the movie theaters, the organization is showcasing “Carmen” on July 19, 2017, in theaters worldwide.

Rubey recently spoke with OperaWire about the partnership and how it has been a boom for both Fathom Events and the Met.

OperaWire: How did this partnership between Fathom Events and The Met come about? How have they helped one another?
John Rubey: Peter Gelb is a true visionary and understood early on the worldwide demand for access to world-class performing arts. So he sought out Fathom’s event cinema expertise and unrivaled theater network to achieve his vision of bringing grand opera from New York to an international audience.
To this day, Fathom Events and the Metropolitan Opera have partnered to bring the acclaimed Live in HD series to more than 7.8 million opera enthusiasts over the past 11 seasons, and this partnership continues to be a highlight for Fathom, the Met, our theater partners and opera fans across the U.S. We are proud of the program because it provides moviegoers across the U.S. access to world-class opera in their hometown and at an affordable price. Audiences also get to go behind the scenes with the talented artists that make the Met one of the most renowned opera houses in the world.
OW: Please tell me about the selection process for the summer encore presentations. What is considered? What affects the specific dates that they are showcased on?
JR: It really comes down to the fans. The Met chooses fan-favorite performances from previous seasons that they think audiences will enjoy having an additional opportunity to experience on the big screen. In terms of the dates, those are chosen to bridge the gap between the Live in HD season programming, providing a consistent Wednesday schedule during the summer for opera fans.
OW: What is one of the great challenges of creating these Live in HD simulcasts? 
JR: As I’m sure you can imagine, there is a lot of coordination and planning that goes into these broadcasts. On the Fathom side, we have to make sure all of our movie theaters are equipped to manage the live broadcast, with the right technology and equipment for streaming. The Met has to coordinate which cameras and microphones will be getting which shots at the perfect time to catch every facial expression, vibrant costume, and pitch-perfect note. The Live in HD broadcasts are a masterpiece of synchronization that bring world-class productions to the big screen.
OW: What is the revenue model for both organizations with these presentations and how do you factor in venues and such?
JR: It’s very similar to the way major motion picture releases are done in that the organizations share in box office revenues from these presentations.
OW: What is the general audience turnout for these compared to other Fathom Events presentations? Is the company seeing a growth in turnout for opera vs. other art forms? 
JR: The Met is one of our longest-running and most successful partnerships and it continues to remain a tentpole series among Fathom’s offerings due to its popularity and performance at the box office. It often places in the top 10 compared to all major films that day.
OW: What is the general audience demographic for these encore presentations? Has there been a trend representing any kind of shift?
JR: To this day, Live in HD draws crowds of all ages, from young children to senior citizens. And we are consistently looking for new ways to introduce the art form to audiences outside of the core opera community, both from a programming and marketing standpoint.
OW: Could you please elaborate on how you are looking to attract new audiences from a programming and marketing standpoint? 
JR: Fathom and the Met partner with select “ambassadors” across the country who do grassroots outreach in their local community, spreading the word about the Met: Live in HD series. This allows Fathom to reach a variety of audiences through personal outreach and word of mouth from the fans themselves.
OW: How do these encores compare to live in HD performances during the season in terms of turnout and attendance? 
JR: The summer encores are released on a more limited scale, showing in fewer movie theaters than the regular Live in HD season. While the overall audience size may be smaller, the summer encore series provides an additional chance to see operas that fans may have missed in previous seasons. We plan to continue these offerings in years to come.
OW: How often have you gotten the opportunity to enjoy the Live in HD series with an audience and what kind of reactions have you experienced? 
JR: I’ve attended several Live in HD events over the years, all of which are truly extraordinary experiences. These events tend to pack cinema auditoriums full, and many people make an outing out of it with a group of friends. People get dressed up like they’re going to the house in NYC!
OW: Of all the Live in HD performances that you have seen, which is your favorite and why? or which is the most memorable?
JR: While every Live in HD broadcast is top-notch, my favorite was “Lulu” from the 15-16 season. The art deco-inspired sets were bright and bold, the story was compelling, and the talent and production was exceptional, as always.
OW: Looking ahead to this upcoming season, which Live in HD performance that you are most excited for next season and why?
JR: This season, I’m most excited about “The Exterminating Angel” in November. “The Exterminating Angel” has its Met premiere this season, conducted by the composer himself, Thomas Adès. The opera is based on the acclaimed 1962 film of the same name about a dinner party from which the guests can’t escape! That should make for fascinating opera.

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About the Author

David Salazar

Prior to creating OperaWire, DAVID SALAZAR, (Editor-in-Chief) worked as a reporter for Latin Post where he interviewed major opera stars including Placido Domingo, Anna Netrebko, Vittorio Grigolo, Diana Damrau and Rolando Villazon among others. His 2014 interview with opera star Kristine Opolais was cited in a New York Times Review.

He also had the opportunity of interviewing numerous Oscar nominees, Golden Globe winners and film industry giants such as Guillermo del Toro, Oscar Isaac and John Leguizamo among others.

David holds a Masters in Media Management from Fordham University. During his time at Fordham, he studied abroad at the Jagiellonian University in Poland. He also holds a dual bachelor’s from Hofstra University in Film Production and Journalism.

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