The National Theatre of Great Britain Launches Streaming Service for On-Demand Plays

In a time when many theaters are struggling to make money, Britain’s National Theatre is taking its old plays online.

The National Theatre of Great Britain has launched a new streaming service called National Theatre at Home. The service offers on-demand and pay-per-view access to a range of recorded plays from the National Theatre's past.

What Is the National Theatre of Great Britain?

The National Theatre of Great Britain, known on home turf simply as the National Theatre, opened in 1976 and was founded by Laurence Olivier.

The theater is located on the South Bank of London and houses several auditoriums. It's one of the most popular performing art venues in the country, having staged plays with some of the most beloved actors and creatives in the world.

In 2009, the company formed National Theatre Live, an initiative to broadcast live productions to movie theaters internationally and help make theater more accessible.

What Is National Theatre at Home?

When the coronavirus pandemic hit at the beginning of 2020, the National Theatre had to shut its doors, unable to stage productions safely.

From April to July, the theater broadcast a number of its productions for free on YouTube, including Tom Hiddlestone's Coriolanus and Gillian Anderson's A Streetcar Named Desire. These were a smash hit, amassing millions of views from people across the world.

Now, the National Theatre has launched its own streaming service called National Theatre at Home. It's built using Vimeo OTT, a platform which allows organizations to launch their own video subscription service.

In the UK, the service costs £99.98 a year or £9.98 a month. In the US, it costs $129.99 a year or $12.99 a month.

Signing up for an on-demand subscription grants access to a range of plays from the National Theatre's past, including Amadeus, Othello, Three Sisters, and Yerma. Some of these were broadcast previously via National Theatre Live, while others are being made available for the first time.

Alternatively, plays can be rented for a one-off fee. Once purchased, you can watch the play as much as you want over a three-day period.

Speaking to The Guardian, Rufus Norris, the director of the National Theatre, said that the company had not only received huge demand for such a service, but that the coronavirus pandemic had been a huge financial hit and the theater needed to bring some income in.

He elaborates:

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.

Watch Theater in the Best Home Environment

Of course, streaming theater is never going to replicate the live experience, but it's the next best thing for now. Until then, you might want to try and build a great home theater so you can watch in the best environment possible.