Screen plays: The growth of the live-action spin-offs
If it's a hit on the telly, the chances are it will soon be coming to a theatre near you
Sunday 27 June 2010
Live studio audiences are an essential ingredient in many of our favourite television shows. But now, broadcasters are casting aside cameras altogether to focus on theatre-goers – and the money that can be shaken out of their wallets – by adapting an increasing number of programmes for the stage.
Dr Who will regenerate as an all-action stage show later this year – complete with cybermen, daleks, an "epic on-stage battle" and a script by lead writer Steven Moffat – but without the TV doctor, Matt Smith.
Broadcasters argue that live shows add an extra dimension to the television experience; but they also bring in millions of extra pounds in ticket and merchandise sales as well as showcasing TV brands around the world.
Other adaptations include Coronation Street, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a stage show at the Lowry Theatre in Salford in August; and a brand new Inspector Morse – written with the blessing of author Colin Dexter – is at theatres across the country in September.
Scruffy Los Angeles TV cop Columbo is also solving murders on the nation's provincial stages; petrolheads can get a live fix of Top Gear and exhaust fumes at the Birmingham Arena and Earls Court, London, in November; while Yes, Prime Minister – the 1980s comedy about slippery politics in the back rooms of Westminster – is transferring to the West End after a successful run in Chichester.
Live versions of television shows are not new – The Tweenies have been doing arena tours since 2000 and Britain's Got Talent and X Factor finalists regularly tour together after the TV competition. The pace is increasing, however, as companies wake up to the extra money such shows can bring in. The BBC's arena shows sold 1.9 million tickets last year. Half a million of those were for the UK tour of Walking with Dinosaurs, priced between £20 and £45. Next year's Strictly Come Dancing tour will see an estimated 280,000 people buy tickets priced between £35 and £60 – grossing an estimated £10m. And that doesn't include the T-shirt.
The BBC also wants to showcase its TV shows in foreign markets.
Dr Who will be travelling to South Korea where it has a massive following; Top Gear has been on a live arena tour around the world, as has Walking with Dinosaurs which is currently in North America.
Craig Stanley, of BBC Worldwide Live, the business arm of the BBC, which is behind the Dr Who theatre show, said the corporation wants to double the number of its live shows in the next three years, and is even working on a "semi-permanent" visitor attraction attached to one hit show – believed to be Dr Who.
Corrie will be celebrating 50 years of Northern wit and serial killers in December. To mark this milestone, all 7,000 episodes are to be abridged and performed at the Lowry Theatre in Salford from August
The Oxford detective lives again in a new stage play by Alma Cullen. Former Dr Who Colin Baker plays the lead. Tours from September
Jeremy Clarkson and friends' world tour rumbles into Birmingham and London in November
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The BBC's monster hit is now a giant touring arena show, complete with animatronic fearsome creatures. It is currently in the US
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Jim Hacker (Henry Goodman) and Sir Humphrey (David Haig), in the West End in September
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