I’ve often commented about my Saturday trips to see the Metropolitan Opera, and several people have asked if these are films of Met productions. Actually, they are part of a series of live opera performances transmitted in high-definition video via satellite from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City to select venues (motion picture theaters and cultural centers) across the United States and around the world where the HD signal is fed into the projectors that fill the big screen … complete with surround sound. And in the average season the number of people attending these performances is greater than the number of people who attend the entire season at the opera house. Many of the productions are later rerun as part of the PBS Great Performances series.
I started going to the Saturday matinée productions during the 2007/08 season at the auditorium of the Saint Louis Art Museum.
Unfortunately, prior to the start of the 2010/11 season the Art Museum started a long-planned expansion program and the auditorium was closed for construction work. So my opera location moved several blocks west … from historic Beaux Arts museum to classic Art Deco movie house.
The new location was the Esquire Theater which just happens to be two months younger than me. It is one of Saint Louis’ surviving second-run that was originally built with a large main auditorium with balcony. In recent years the balcony was enclosed to form two smaller theaters.
An addition was built in the late 80s creating three additional theatres … one large and two smaller. The large theater is used for showing the Met broadcasts. The decor reflects the design of the original main auditorium.
The theater seats about 750 in three seating sections. The curved screen almost fills the full width of the theater. Image shown is the pre-program projection test. While the A/V capabilities exceed that of the art museum, the movie theater lacks the atmosphere and sense of participation the museum auditorium provided.