Cinema brings Rock Legends series to the big screen

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 June, 2013, 9:15am

A night at the movies is not what it used to be. In the past few years cinemas have replaced film screenings with other viewing options, mostly classical productions such as operas, ballets and symphonies.

It's a shift that has been warmly welcomed by the public. But with their growing popularity comes intensified competition, prompting many cinemas to look for alternative productions to fill seats. From live streaming pop performances and now films of classic rock 'n' roll concerts, the cinema is no longer the domain of movie lovers alone.

The latest experiment is coming to Multiplex Cinema Limited (MCL) screens this month, and it might see concertgoers turning in their tuxedos for leather trousers.

The Rock Legend Series, which kicked off on Sunday at the MCL Kornhill Cinema in Taikoo, features classic rock 'n' roll concerts and concert documentaries. The first of the series was a concert by Queen recorded in Budapest in 1986. It will be followed up by a truly classic show, The Doors: Live at the Bowl '68, a timely tribute after Doors founding member Ray Manzarek died last month. The third and final offering is Crossfire Hurricane, a new documentary about the golden age of The Rolling Stones, featuring lots of live performance footage and interviews with the band.

Things have certainly changed since the first alternative cinema programme in Hong Kong, The Met: Live in HD, which brought select performances from the New York opera company to cinemas around the world. The Met came to Hong Kong in 2009 under the auspices of the Foundation for the Arts and Music in Asia, and was a great success.

This was followed the next year by four classical music programmes, then by Classical in Cinema - a screening of classical orchestra performances - at The Grand Cinema in 2011.

Although undoubtedly good for the city's cultural life, at first look, it is less clear that alternative shows in cinemas make commercial sense. They can take up to twice as long as traditional films - and cinemas cannot recoup these differences in sales (MCL sells movie tickets for HK$80 and tickets to other offerings for HK$120).

Also, these offerings do not have the dependable draw of big-time Hollywood blockbusters. Still, theatres are eager to host them. With the new movies available on the internet and the widespread availability of pirated movies, getting people to fork out for a ticket is harder than ever. Also, as ticket sales dwindle, endangered cinemas are being forced to reach out to new audiences.

MCL general manager June Wong says: "The alternative programmes are not meant to make big money, but doing them brings new customers to our cinemas. The main purpose is to bring in different types of people."

If the classical performances lured more mature audiences, then Rock Legend is meant for a younger set - albeit with a non-contemporary taste in music.

Or, who knows, you'll be shocked to see a new group in the cinema lobby: Hong Kong's ageing rock 'n' rollers.