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'Forever Plaid' movie to be simulcast to nationwide theaters

June 24, 2009 |  7:00 am

Most everyone who has attended a movie in Los Angeles in the last couple of weeks -- or, in fact, in North America -- has already seen very plaid trailers.

To celebrate the upcoming 20th anniversary of the popular off-Broadway musical, a new movie version of "Forever Plaid"  will be shown simultaneously via satellite feed to 500 theaters in the United States and Canada on July 9. Along with the screening of the film, theater audiences will see a live stage show featuring Hollywood and Broadway stars and will have the opportunity to join in a nationwide sing-along.

Trailers have been rolling in 17,000 theaters in North America since June 10.

The film will get the requisite L.A. red carpet (or will it be plaid?) treatment at downtown L.A.'s Club Nokia, with a celeb-studded pre-show and a live introduction by actor Fred Willard, an appearance by Carol Channing and a live performance by "Plaid" cast members -- a group that includes three of the original cast of the stage production (Stan Chandler, Larry Ruben and David Engel) singing songs from the show as well as other selections. Channing will sing one of her signature songs, "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend," which Channing first performed onstage 60 years ago.

Those who catch the show in L.A. will see the staged portion of the show live; the rest of the country gets it via satellite. The stage show will also be part of the package when the movie is released on DVD; a CD of the show's tunes plus songs added for the live performance is also planned.

Tickets for the show in all theaters will go for $18. The Nokia event is somewhat pricier, with general admission set at $50 and VIP tix at $175.

Forever Plaid production shot

The movie was produced by Benni Korzen (Forever Plaid Productions) and is being distributed by Fathom Productions, a division of National CineMedia.  As detailed in a recent Times story, Fathom is deep into the business of bringing opera, ballet, sports and other special events to movie theaters via satellite feed.

As yet there are no plans for a wider theatrical release for the movie. 

"We just finished the movie last Friday," Korzen tells Culture Monster. "This production has created some interesting challenges; no one has done this before, we are guinea pigs; it's not just a movie, it's a  live event. We have to make sure our technical crew pushes the right buttons. ... The sing-along and all of that is something we're all now trying to wrap out hands around."

Why the decision to present the show this way instead of producing a traditional movie adaptation for general release? "We were really stymied -- we thought, 'We can't go out with 2,000 prints, nor is it an art movie -- it's something in between.' Fathom was looking for something that was not the standard movie musical release." Korzen is predicting about 45% capacity audiences at the participating theaters.

While the production is being touted as a "one-time-only" event, if all goes well, Korzen says that they'll probably do the whole thing again in 30 days or so, including a recorded version of the Nokia show.

Will feeding "Forever Plaid" into 500 movie houses cut into the audience for the many stage productions of the ubiquitous musical?  The show seems to roll through the Los Angeles area regularly; regional productions have included a special "holiday edition" of the show at Pasadena Playhouse in 2001, a performance by Fullerton Civic Light Opera at Plummer Auditorium in 1998 and a presentation at La Mirada Theater in 1995.  

Korzen doesn't think so.  "Remember when TV came about and some people said: 'That will kill the movie business?'  That didn't happen."  He adds that some of the preliminary research for the project revealed that many "Forever Plaid" audience members had seen the show multiple times: "There's something there that brought people back in."

"Co-existence is very much possible here; it depends on how much the audience enjoys this."

-- Diane Haithman

Photo: "Forever Plaid," the movie, in production. Credit: Forever Plaid Productions.