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While it may be more than 500 miles away from Athens, you can see shows from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City live from the comfort of a local movie theater at a fraction of the cost.
For nearly three years the Athena Grand has been offering Athenians a chance to experience live opera shows and encores straight from the MET Opera without traveling to New York City.
Rick Frame, owner and manager of the Athena Grand on East State Street, said that he wanted to offer moviegoers more than just new releases in his theater and began researching alternative content to be aired.
He said there were many hoops he had to jump through in order to get permission to air the MET Opera performances, but after more than a year of working out the logistics, the Athena Grand started showing the operas.
And the decision seems to have a steady following among a group of area residents. Frame said that a core group of about 30 people attend the live events, which are held at 12:55 p.m. on Saturdays. He said that a group used to travel to Columbus to see the shows, but with many of the performances being held in the winter months, the weather sometimes made the trip difficult for local opera enthusiasts.
The Athena Grand is the only theater in the immediate area to broadcast the operas, which Frame said gets patrons to the theater who normally wouldn’t attend other shows. He said that there are also people from Marietta and Parkersburg that travel to Athens to catch the opera broadcasts.
“Athens is unique in its demographic and we are able to get events that a town this size normally wouldn’t have,” Frame said.
According to Frame, many of the opera show guests are senior citizens, but said that there are some university students and children that attend the shows.
Athens resident Cynthia Love is one of those die-hard opera fans that attend most of the live broadcasts at the Athena Grand.
“There is a core group of people that attend, but there’s always different people there too,” Love said.
Love said her love of opera started at birth as she was exposed to her late grandmother’s opera records. She said she saw her first opera performance at Ohio University’s Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium when she was 12 and she fell in love with the live performance.
“To see it performed live was kind of a revelation for me,” she said.
Love’s passion for opera grew even more as she regularly attended operas in New York and Philadelphia.
“Opera is just one medium but incorporates so many like art, music, costuming, storytelling and set,” she said.
According to Love, today’s opera seem to have a new generation of performers, promoters and directors that take the live broadcasts into consideration during the live shows.
“It’s as though you’re sitting on the stage,” she said.
Love said that Frame had to essentially retrofit a theater to accommodate the MET Opera performances. Frame said that the theater offers punch and cake during the intermission for the guests.
The MET Opera’s season runs from October to May with about a dozen live broadcasts. In addition to the live broadcasts on Saturdays, the Athena Grand also shows encore performances on Wednesday evenings at a discounted price.
The cost for the live MET Opera performances is $24 for adults, $22 for seniors and $18 for children. Encore shows are $6.50.
So far, the MET Opera shows have not proven to be profitable for the Athena Grand, but Frame said that the shows are loved. He said that the Metropolitan Opera gets half of the ticket price, plus ticket prices also cover the cost of satellite feed. He said that the theater makes between $2-3 per ticket.
Frame said he had the option of subscribing to cheaper opera companies, but his patrons encouraged him to stick with the MET Opera.
But the MET Opera shows aren’t the only alternative content the Athena Grand shows. Frame said the theater also provides live concert performances (such as a recent Aerosmith concert), old movies, Halloween thrillers, art gallery tours, ballets and more.
One upcoming alternative content show is a one-night showing of the home invasion thriller Mischief Night, which will play on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The theater will also show a The Royal Opera in London’s performance of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on Nov. 19 at 7 p.m.
For a list of upcoming MET Opera shows and other alternative content, visit athenagrand.com or call 593-8822.