National Theatre Live is an initiative operated by the Royal National Theatre in London, which broadcasts live via satellite, performances of their productions (and from other theatres) to cinemas and arts centres around the world.
I grew up in Manchester in the 60s. If I had been able to see Olivier's National Theatre at my local cinema, I would have gone all of the time.
The programme began its pilot season in June 2009 with a production of Phèdre, starring Helen Mirren, which screened live in 70 cinemas across the UK. Two hundred more venues eventually showed the production internationally, resulting in a combined audience of around 50,000 people for this one performance. The second production, All's Well That Ends Well, showed at a total of around 300 screens, and today, the number of venues that show NT Live productions has grown to around 700.
With the exception of a Saturday matinee for Nation, a Monday evening showing for London Assurance, and a Tuesday evening showing for A Streetcar Named Desire, all National Theatre Live productions have been broadcast on a Thursday evening, to avoid conflicting with cinemas' weekend schedules. Most venues screen the productions live as they are broadcast, but because of the time differences in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States venues in those countries show the recorded production some days later. Many venues also offer repeat screenings of popular productions which they term 'Encores'.
Most productions broadcast are plays performed in repertory at the Royal National Theatre, but works by other companies have been included. A Disappearing Number by Complicite was broadcast live from the Theatre Royal, Plymouth on 14 October 2010. The Donmar Warehouse's production of King Lear, starring Derek Jacobi was broadcast live from Covent Garden on 3 February 2011. In the summer of 2013, a broadcast of Macbeth starring Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston was broadcast live from the Manchester International Festival on 20 July 2013. A Streetcar Named Desire starring Gillian Anderson was broadcast live from the Young Vic on 16 September 2014.
Live performances are broadcast live from the National Theatre (unless noted). They are certified differently from feature films.