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LA Philharmonic in HD: Ready for Its Close-Up?

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Orchestras have been slow to catch on to the HD broadcast phenomenon, partly due to the costs but also because the medium requires something more visually compelling than 90 people wearing black and sitting down.

But now comes the Los Angeles Philharmonic and its telegenic conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, which is poised to transmit three of its concerts live into more than 450 movie theaters in North America beginning in January. Five theaters in Manhattan will carry the broadcasts, which were announced on Monday.

The new venture will partner the Philharmonic under an exclusive one-year agreement with Denver-based NCM Fathom, the same company that distributes the Metropolitan Opera’s simulcasts to movie theaters.

Dubbed "LA Phil Live," the simulcasts will be "heavily produced affairs, shot with multiple cameras and overseen by directors who specialize in live production,” reports the LA Times. Viewers will see close-ups, medium and long-range shots of the musicians and audience, as well as glimpses of the backstage action.

The movie theater programs will include all-Brahms and all-Tchaikovsky evenings, though audiences expecting to see the kind of kinetic displays Dudamel inspires from Leonard Bernstein's Mambo may have to resort to YouTube (see below).

The concert dates are Jan. 9, March 13 and June 5. Tickets will cost $18 to $22.

Dudamel, the charismatic 29-year-old conductor who emerged from Venezuela's acclaimed El Sistema music education system, began as music director of the LA Philharmonic last fall. Philharmonic officials say they hope the screenings will raise the profile of classical music and expand the orchestra's appeal.

What do you think? Would you go to a movie theater to watch a live orchestra performance?