MTR to Receive 300-Title 'Theatre For TV' Collection From BDE

News   MTR to Receive 300-Title 'Theatre For TV' Collection From BDE Playbill On-Line has learned that Broadway Digital Entertainment (BDE) is donating its 300-title television theatre archive to the Museum of Television and Radio (MTR). The BDE archive comprises most of the theatrical productions that were filmed for television on PBS, WNET and KCET years ago.

Playbill On-Line has learned that Broadway Digital Entertainment (BDE) is donating its 300-title television theatre archive to the Museum of Television and Radio (MTR). The BDE archive comprises most of the theatrical productions that were filmed for television on PBS, WNET and KCET years ago.

"It's the whole archive," BDE's Basil Hero said, "which is worth $500,000. The museum will be throwing a party in June 26 honoring us for the donation."

Hero said BDE donated the archive to the library for purposes of research and screening so that students would have free access to the material, most of which has not been seen since it was originally aired. "It's important for students of theatre to see these programs on a regular basis," Hero explained. "Any availability of these works is a good thing."

As reported earlier, Hero and his partner, former HBO executive Michael Fuchs first announced a new theatre resource, the Broadway Theatre Archive, in December 1999. Describing their newly acquired archive as some of theatre's "crown jewels," Hero and Fuchs planned to have videotaped versions of as many as 35 legit performances available for consumers by the start of 2000 through a web-based service that would digitally remaster the theatrical performances that were originally made by PBS, New York's WNET and Los Angeles' KCET.

Just a few months after announcing the Broadway Theatre Archive project, on Feb. 16, Hero and Fuchs announced even bigger plans, this time featuring theatre's first global television subscription service, Broadway Tonight (BT). BT is expected to launch its worldwide services in the fall of 2001. Once underway, BT will offer four Broadway shows to television viewers around the world for an annual subscription fee of $79.95. At the time of the second launch, Hero elaborated on the new subscription television service, likening his model to HBO's. "Broadway Tonight is an original programming series," Hero told Playbill On-Line in February. "We're a subscription business the same way HBO is."

Meanwhile, a BT competitor, the Broadway Television Network (BTN) was launched in February, based on a pay-per-view model. BTN has already taped two closing night performances of Broadway shows, Putting It Together and Smokey Joe's cafe, which it plans to market. Until a broadcast deal has been made, BTN says it is not planning any further tapings.

Both BDE/BT and BTN are said to be busy establishing new offices. BDE is now located at 30 West Broadway in New York City and BTN is expected to move into a new, undisclosed location in the near future. While both start ups are the source of speculation on Broadway, much of the recent news concerning either group has been non-news; aside from the moves, there have been no major business announcements in the past few weeks, until now.

The notion that BDE/BT would "donate" its 300-title archive to a museum raises several questions. Though the titles would be well-preserved and made available to the public at MTR, the archive has formed a cornerstone for BDE/BT and the 300 titles are a major element in its strategy to broadcast theatre content and provide a repository for the company's original shows in the future.

BDE insists it will retain commercial rights to the archive. Asked if BDE intended to pursue its plans to exploit its "crown jewels," Hero said, "Oh, absolutely, sure. MTR doesn't sell these things. The donation has nothing to do with our commercial distribution. We're making the archive exclusively available to the museum for its purposes, which are historical and cultural. It's a goodwill gesture, but the donation does not affect our rebroadcast of the archive.

In the past, BDE's Hero has said that the BDE/BT idea is to identify properties that are exciting and fresh and to mount them both for television and for theatre. The archive has always figured prominently in that mix.

The reported strategy for BDE/BT includes hiring film and television stars for a new play, on the premise that established talent in film and television will generate marketing support for the show. Using a television studio, BT will then record the original cast in performance -- before they ever perform in front of an audience. The tape of that performance is then put on hold. Next, the show is sent for out-of-town tryouts. Following the tryouts, the show comes to New York for its Broadway opening. Once the show closes its stage run, the taped version of the original cast becomes part of BT's global television subscription package. Eventually, BT's shows will go to its Broadway Theatre Archive for syndication and video distribution. "We would be identifying and co producing the properties instead of going to producers with existing content and properties," Hero explained in February. "We're starting fresh with our own material. We think it's important to control the copyrights and subsequent distribution."

BDE's investor group comprises founding investor Michael Fuchs, WaterView Advisors' Frank Biondi, The Nederlander Theatre Group, Bear Stearns/Constellation Ventures, Psilos Venture Capital Group, The New York City Investment Fund and Broadway producers Chase Mishkin and Anita Waxman. [BDE includes "The Nederlander Theatre Group" in its list of investors. BTN, BDE's nearest competitor, has cited "The Nederlander Organization"'s commitment to BTN. For the record, both statements are accurate and each organization appears to have its own distinct and credible link to the Nederlander theatre family.]

As of December 1999 the following titles were said to comprise BDE's archive catalog. Additional titles may have been added. BDE continues to restore the individual programs in the archive and said it will make these available to MTR as restorations are completed.

A Case of Libel
A Day Like Today
A Life in the Theater
A Moon for the Misbegotten (Abc Theatre)
A Tale of Two Cities
A Touch of the Poet
Ages of Man
Ah, Wilderness!
Alice in Wonderland
All Over
All the Kings Men
Andres Segovia
Antigone
The Bells of St. Mary's
Beyond the Horizon
Billy Budd
Breakfast With Les And Bess
The Bridge of San Luis Rey
Brother to Dragons
The Browning Version
Burning Bright
Caesar and Cleopatra
Casey Stengel
The Ceremony of Innocence
The Charterhouse of Parma
The Cherry Orchard
The Closing Door
The Colored Museum
The Contractor
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Crucible
Cyrano De Bergerac
Dear Liar
Death of a Salesman
The Diary of Anne Frank
Don Juan in Hell
Dorothy Parker's Big Blonde
Eccentricities of a Nightingale
Enemies
Ethan Frome
The Fallen Idol
Feasting With Panthers
Journey of the Fifth Horseman
Fifth of July
The First Breeze of Summer
The Five-Forty-Eight (John Cheever Trilogy)
Follies in Concert
For Colored Girls...
Forget-Me Not-Lane
From Chekhov With Love
Girls in Their Summer Dresses
The Glass Menagerie
The Good Doctor
Guests of the Nation
Hamlet
Happy Days
Harry S. Truman: Plain Speaking
Hedda Gabler
The Heiress
The Human Voice (ABC Stage 67)
Hogan's Goat
I, Don Quixote
I Would Be Called John: Pope John XXIII
Ian McKellen Acting Shakespeare
The Iceman Cometh
Ike
Isaac Stern
Jane Eyre
JFK: A One Man Show
June Moon
Juno and the Paycock
The Kathy and Mo Show
King Lear
Kiss Kiss Dahlings
The Last Mile
Little Women
Look Back in Anger
Lullaby
Mark Twain Tonight
Mass
Medea
Meet Me in St. Louis
Memory of Two Mondays
Mister Lincoln
Monkey, Monkey, Bottle of Beer...
The Moon and Sixpence
Mound Builders
Mourning Becomes Electra
Mrs. Miniver
Ninotchka
Oliver Twist
Out of Our Father's House
The Outcasts of Poker Flat
Pablo Casals
Paradise Lost
The Power and the Glory
The Price
The Prince and the Pauper
Rashomon
The Regard of Flight
Ride with Terror
The Rimers of Eldritch
The Royal Family
The Rules of the Game
The Scarlet Pimpernel
The School for Scandal
The Seagull
Sea Marks
Secret Service
The Silver Burr
Some Men Need Help
The Taming of the Shrew
Tartuffe
Three Cheever Stories (Three 1-Hour Episodes)
The Three Musketeers
Three Plays by Tennessee Williams
Treasure Island
The Time of Your Life
To Be Young Gifted and Black
The Trial of the Moke
Uncommon
Verna: USO Girl
Waiting for Godot
When Hell Freezes Over I'll Skate
The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd
The Winslow Boy
The World of Sholom Aleichem
Wuthering Heights
Winston Churchill
Year of the Dragon
You Can't Take It With You
Youth and Beauty! (John Cheever Trilogy)
Zalman or the Madness of God and Zero Mostel

-- By Murdoch McBride