To take pictures or not to take pictures, that is the question.

I received an invite to Fuerza Bruta‘s “Twitter Night” on Thursday, Dec. 3rd where I would be “encouraged to live tweet with pictures and video.” Benefits to the show, obvious.
I also saw Hamlet last week, and a couple of enthusiastic fans (at least one being from international waters) took photos during the curtain call. She was greeted with a flashlight in the face, and a security guard yelling at her. Damage to the show, obvious.  (It reminded me of the time I got in trouble!)

It was the curtain call, guys.  They weren’t shooting pix during Ophelia’s mad scene.

I had to wonder . . . are the actors really opposed to curtain call photos, or is this just one of those union positions that we’re holding on to that no one is that concerned about anymore?  Wouldn’t those actors benefit from having their mugs on facebook pages and tweeted like the ones at Fuerza Bruta on 12/3?  Could we get a curtain call provision that would allow photos to be taken only then?  It’s not “uncontrolled” because the actors know what they look like, what they are wearing, etc.  It’s much better than a shot on the street, which we can’t prevent.

If the actors are opposed to curtain call photos, then I respect it (Jude has had issues with camera folk before, so maybe he has asked for none to be taken).  But if that really is the case, let’s treat our fans with a little more respect as well and not make them feel like they took a picture of the Mona Lisa (I still have nightmares about those security guards at The Louvre).

I guess I sort of understand the question of, “Do you really want all these flashes going off at the end of a show?  It’ll look like a baseball game!”  Ok, ok, I get it.  But baseball games are exciting.  And when people take pictures, they want to capture excitement so they can reminisce later.  The marketing power of those photos for the show, and for Broadway, is more significant than we could ever muster on our own.

And since we allow the press to take curtain call photos (with or without a flash), why can’t we allow the fans? Nowadays, the fans actually have more distribution outlets than members of the press anyway.

At the end of the day, here is how I saw these two experiences:

Fuerza Bruta is harnessing the power of the fans.

Traditional Broadway has a habit of turning fans away.


  • Scott says:

    NO! Don’t you realize that allowing cameras in the theatre AT ALL will let the audience think that they can take or SNEAK pictures throughout the show, NOT just at the curtain call?
    And yes, it still IS an uncontrolled event. Not all actors look their best at the END of the play after a draining performance. Just because we have the capability for instant photography, doesn’t mean we need to use it at every moment. Let the audience buy a souvenir program or photos in the lobby if they want a rememberance.

  • Liz says:

    Isn’t there also a concern with the copyright on the set design and the costumes? I was always told that was one of the reasons that photographs aren’t allowed in the theater, even when the actors weren’t on the stage.

  • Ron says:

    My guess is that photography inside a theatre is still a union situation. I also believe curtain calls are still part of the performance. Those photos could be used for a TV commercial – or for advertising purposes. And the previous writer (Scott) is correct about actor’s not wanting the end of performance photos out in the universe. Their image is one of their few marketing tools and they should have the right to choose which ones the public will see. And, flash bulbs may intrude into other audience members’ “space.” Used to be that the media had to arrange in advance for photography during a performance – and wasn’t that usually restricted to just a few shots?

  • People trying to take pictures at the end of shows, or worse mid show, surely boils down to us not being able to attract people to come to the theatre on regularly basis, they are therefore not be aware of etiquette and practices.

  • Will says:

    I agree that the taking of pictures in the theatre, even at the end of a performance, should not be allowed; however, I do think that the security guard yelling at the person was completely uncalled for.

  • Ron says:

    From what I know about the theatre, anything and everything one does inside the theatre (including under the marquee) has a charge or fee or payment connected to it. Almost always it is based on industry contracts with stagehands, Equity, etc. From what I know, if someone take secret photos or videos during a performance, and they are caught, I believe the unions (that mean the entire cast and crew) can demand a full performance payment. In practice they would not, but technically, they can. That comes out to 1/8th of a week’s salary for everyone. A lot of money. And knowing a little about photography, it is almost a guarantee that the photos will not be good. I worked briefly with a symphony orchestra in Florida and once or twice a year the public was allowed (encouraged) to attend rehearsals and shoot lots of photos.
    The performing arts is a strange animal.

  • jon says:

    hey i’ve been reading your blogs for a while and i love getting them everyday. really a great look into the theater world. i think this is a brilliant idea to allow curtain call pictures and you being a producer, you should bring it up to someone. get the ball rolling, you know? the same situation has happened to me, as yours with the infamous Tibor. i would love the chance to take pictures at the curtain call. people see the press pictures and they are great quality and all, but when you take the picture yourself, not only is it special to you, but you want to gloat about it! “hey look at this picture i got of jude law when the show was over!” will be posted all over facebook and twitter if you can make this happen, i guarentee it.

  • Dana says:

    I agree that allowing photos at current call is an excellent idea and a huge unmined marketing tool. I think the other commenters’ reasons really don’t hold much water at all. Performers are subject to paparazzi photos all the time, a few flashes during curtain call isn’t a nuisance, and photos of the set and costumes are in the souvenir program. I really think the Broadway industry and the unions need to lighten up.

  • It’s extremely common to see people taking photos at the curtain call when attending the big musicals in Germany, as though there’s an unwritten contract with the fans: behave during the show and take a few pics at the end (ESPECIALLY at cast changes/closing nights.) The system works pretty well, the ushers are generally relaxed, and everybody goes home happy – especially if their favourite understudy was on that day.

  • Jason says:

    Talked about this in April at a theater conference with about 100 theaters nationwide and about half the room was asking why they should not do this and the other half was saying they do not have rights to the pictures.
    At a minimum, ALL SHOWS should have a place that encourages a photo being taken then post to a network. Whether it is a premade stand/photo opp or at a curtain call. Also every theater should give FREE wifi before and after the show and during intermission if there is one. The power of suggestion will remind people to share at a minimum.
    It doesn’t have to be blatant either — like saying post to your facebook page — it should be something that a person naturally says I need to share this or this is special. Many Vegas shows give you the possibility to take a picture with the acts from Penn & Teller to Blue Man Group to Cirque characters.
    Glad to see that some are putting this to practice in NY, Ken.

  • dan mason says:

    With all due respect, i find you post to be incredibly myopic. “Let the audience buy s souveneir program or photos in the lobby?” The audience as already spent someweere in the range of $65-$135 just to see your show in the first place. If they are a tourist, they’ve already paid for airfare and hotel to the city. You really want to bleed them dry for another $20 for a program that very few of their friends are likely to see?
    As a producer, and even a performer in a show, you are competing with up to 25 other shows for the consumer’s money. You are statistically in a position where there is a 4 in 5 chance that your show will NOT be profitable and forced to close. Print and TV ads are expensive and can put a struggling show further in the hole. Yet, you are arguing to turn away free word of mouth advertising that is probably more powerful than the full page ad in the New York Times?
    I once read a statistic about the “theory of Information and gossip”. Simply put, if someone has a good customer service experience (whether it be a restaurant, shopping, or movie that they liked) they are likely to tell ten friends, who in turn will tell ten of their friends, so an and so forth. I would have to think in the age of social networking, that number is actually much higher. If 15 audience members post a curtain call pic to their facebook and rave about the show, and 50 friends read about it, and tell their friends… how many new potential ticketbuyers do we have an opportunity to reach? And how much have we spent? Nothing.
    Ok, so maybe the actors sweaty pits are caught on camera…but that sure does sound better than looking for work when the show closes, doesn’t it?
    The genie is already out of the bottle. People can discreetly take pictures from their cell phones and that isn’t going to change. Let’s stop complaining about the problem and think of ways to use it as part of the solution

  • Keith Beck says:

    Time for producers to start to sell the audience digital photo and video rights as a ticker rider. This is sold at the theater. Personal photo’s white lanyard, Video another color, internet distribution another color. Scale fee’s, set up times when photos are taken, Pre-show, intermission, curtain call. New rev stream for the production. No lanyard and your caught taking a picture, your done! and your escorted out of the theater. Pretty sure this is not going to be received well… (wait I have to go to my car to get my Kevlar… ok I’m back.)

  • Marc Miller says:

    I really don’t understand the need for photos or videos in the theater. If someone is so anxious to take a photo, wait outside the stage door.

  • Deadwood says:

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    a few days ago? Any certain?

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