It's finally happened. After months of streaming their plays for free on YouTube, the United Kingdom's National Theatre has finally launched National Theatre at Home, a paid streaming service available for audiences worldwide. The National Theatre first began streaming its recent productions during the UK's initial COVID lockdown during Spring and Summer when theaters and cinemas were closed, making a variety of productions available for free on its YouTube channel. They included lavish new productions of Frankenstein directed by Danny Boyle and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, Treasure Island with Arthur Darvill, One Man, Two Guvnors with James Corden, A Midsummer Night's Dream with Game of Thrones' Gwendoline Christie, Coriolanus with Tom Hiddleston and Cleopatra with Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okenedo. They were watched more than 15 million times and reached 173 countries.
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As reported in the Guardian, Rufus Norris, the director of the National Theatre, said the first motivation was to serve what was clearly a huge demand. "We had extraordinary figures which showed there was an appetite for this work."
The second reason was to make back some money for the venue and the artists. "It has been an extraordinarily difficult time for this theatre and for all theatres and we've had to make some very painful financial decisions and if there is a way of serving an audience but also bringing some income in to the theatre, that is a sensible thing to do.
"The primary objective, even within that, is that a lot of the money that we bring in is immediately fed back to the artists who made the work and our partner theatres. As we know the freelance artists, on who this industry entirely depends, have been facing huge difficulties at this time so any income we can get to them is going to be crucial."
National Theatre at Home: What You Get Now
The online service and app National Theatre at Home is now available worldwide and launches with productions including Phèdre with Helen Mirren, Othello with Adrian Lester and the Young Vic's production of Yerma with Billie Piper. New titles from the archive will be added each month, including previous National Theatre Live broadcasts, as well as plays filmed for the NT's Archive that will be released online for the first time, such as I Hate Suzie co-creator Lucy Kirkwood's Mosquitoes with Olivia Colman and Olivia Williams, and Inua Ellams' new version of Chekhov's Three Sisters set in Nigeria.
"With the agreement from artists, we are now able to showcase an extraordinary range of fantastic NT Live productions and, for the first time, some treasured plays from our NT Archive," NT executive director Lisa Burger said in the Deadline Hollywood report. "This is a really exciting day for the National Theatre as we launch a major, online streaming destination for our filmed theatre productions which we hope will continue to provide audiences with the power and joy of theatre for as long as it is needed."
Viewers can subscribe monthly or annually for £9.98 per month or £99.98 per year. They can also rent shows for a 72-hour window for £5.99 for archive and £7.99 for NT Live. The platform is on Apple, Google, Roku TV and Amazon Fire TV services. In US dollars, monthly subscriptions cost $12.99 a month and $129.99 a year before taxes. Individual plays can be rented for $9.99 each. Now, if only they had a video archive of the 1980s political satire Pravda, which starred Anthony Hopkins as a monstrous newspaper tycoon who served as a prototype for his version of Hannibal Lector a few years later…
National Theatre at Home has a website for signing up as well as an app in all the app stores.