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How films in concert became big business

After securing the rights to the Avatar films, Avex Classics International's Kate Caro charts the growth of the cinematic experience

By James Hanley on 15 Mar 2024

Kate Caro


Avex Classics International (ACI) head of Europe & The Americas Kate Caro has spoken to IQ about the growing popularity of films live in concert.

The company – a division of Japan’s leading entertainment business Avex Inc – last week announced it has acquired the rights for James Cameron’s Avatar films.

The concerts are licensed by Disney Concerts and 20th Century Studios, with the world premiere of Avatar LIVE to be held at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 27 October. James Horner’s epic score will be performed live by an orchestra, choir and soloists, conducted by Ludwig Wicki, while the blockbuster is shown on the big screen.

Avatar is made for the big screen,” says Caro. “And what is fantastic about the live in concert forum is that it’s not just going to see your favourite film on a big screen again, you’re seeing it with thousands of people with a live orchestra on stage – and also a live choir in this case. So it’s heightening the emotions and making it much bigger experience for everyone, and that is phenomenal.

“Avatar is 2hr 42m long and there are only 20 minutes without music, so it’s a big play for the orchestra and a huge performance. But that just shows you how crucial James Horner’s score is to the film. We’ve got the world premiere fixed for October and an eight-concert tour in France. And we’ve got lots of plans for Scandinavia, Germany, Italy, Australia and Asia, and some high-profile plans for America as well, so it’s an exciting one for us.”

“Musically, we need to ensure that technically everything is absolute highest quality. Nothing can afford to go wrong”

The deal continues a long-standing relationship with James Cameron that has seen Avex produce Titanic LIVE, Aliens LIVE and The Terminator LIVE in concert at venues around the world.

“It’s been a really long and collaborative partnership,” Caro tells IQ. “There are a lot of stakeholders that we have to ensure are happy because these films are everything to them and we are essentially taking their babies and producing them in a concert format.

“Musically, we need to ensure that technically everything is absolute highest quality. Nothing can afford to go wrong. The stakes are high in live performances, so we have top teams making sure that everything goes according to plan so that the audiences get the best possible experience.”

ACI’s film in concert shows have been performed in more than 80 cities across 30 countries, and Caro points out the productions have helped introduce new audiences to classical music.

“Everybody, whether they know it or not, is exposed to classical music all the time – through documentaries, through film, through TV series – it’s all underscored by orchestral music,” she says. “But this is providing an entry point to those who haven’t been exposed to live symphonic music before. We’re seeing a huge array of audiences and it’s wonderful to see their reactions.”

“We’ve got two Indian titles, Baahubali: The Beginning and Baahubali: The Conclusion, with more to come”

She adds: “We have carefully curated [our catalogue] so we have a variety of titles to suit different audiences worldwide, because that’s really what we’re aiming for. We want to find projects that will work for all audiences, not just the UK or English-speaking markets.

“We have huge global blockbusters like Avatar and Titanic. We’ve got critically acclaimed masterpieces such as Amadeus – we’ve had 170 performances in 27 countries of that show – and Blade Runner has a six-concert UK tour coming up in September.

“We’ve got two Indian titles, Baahubali: The Beginning and Baahubali: The Conclusion, with more Indian titles to come. We’re finding that’s a really interesting market, both for audiences who haven’t experienced films like that in this way before, but also for promoters and especially orchestras who have wanted to engage with local Indian communities.”

Caro explains how the films in concert concept has evolved as it has grown in prominence over the past decade or so.

“You’ve got the theatrical release and the streaming release now, and film live in concert has almost become a third pillar to that. You’re seeing so many titles now coming out in that forum, which is fantastic to see. It’s providing people with different ways to see film, but also experiencing music live in that way as well.

“It has become more of a commercial enterprise than it was, say, 15 years ago, when most of the films with live orchestra were perhaps a little bit higher-end and niche at that point.”

“We’re very lucky to have developed Blade Runner LIVE and The Terminator LIVE, which are not for orchestras but touring bands”

Detailing the complexities involved in the presentations, Caro says that although some venues “work better than others”, the firm has learned to be adaptable.

“We try and make it work wherever promoters want to do it, whether that’s indoor or outdoor, big or small,” she says. “We’re very lucky to have developed Blade Runner LIVE and The Terminator LIVE, which are not for orchestras but touring bands. Blade Runner‘s for 11 musicians and The Terminator is for eight musicians, so those can work in smaller venues – perhaps where you couldn’t fit a full orchestra on stage – or indeed where the acoustics  are not going to be as good for an orchestra, so these work very well in terms of flexible spaces.

“But you need to ensure that you don’t lose too many seats in terms of sight lines. Promoters will be keeping an eye on the box office very carefully, of course, because these do come with high cost productions. At Avex, we’re picking and choosing really carefully. We want to ensure that if a promoter is going to be paying to have an orchestra on stage, it’s an expensive undertaking for them so we need to make sure that it’s really worth their while.”

Earlier this month, Live Nation and Mattel, Inc announced a North American film with orchestra tour of Barbie The Movie: In Concert, and looking to the future of the concept, Caro is confident there is still vast untapped potential to explore.

“We’re often approached with by studios with some of their back catalogue, but it’s an expensive undertaking to make sure that it’s done really really well so we are quite careful to choose the projects we’re working on,” she says. “We’re also keen to build relationships with directors and with studios, and build a trustworthy two-way relationship, where we’re listening to them and they’re listening to us and projects get built.

“As we’ve shown with with Baahubali, we’re forging into a different marketplace with Indian titles and there is huge expansion to be done with other very popular genres as well. There are some that come to mind that haven’t had this treatment yet, like anime, which could be really exciting.”

 


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