Amazon has partnered with the National Theatre to stream four high-profile live-recorded stage shows, including Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag.
The shows, which include Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller in 2011’s Frankenstein, will be made available to Amazon’s Prime Video customers in the UK and Ireland from 11 June.
The two other performances are Cumberbatch as Hamlet, filmed at the Barbican in 2015, and Ian McKellen on Stage, a solo show the Lord of the Rings actor toured in 2019 to mark his 80th birthday.
“As theatre-makers continue to be impacted by the pandemic, this will enable us to further support the artists behind the work,” said Lisa Burger, the joint chief executive at the National Theatre, which has beamed theatre performances into British cinemas for the past 12 years. “Audiences will have the best seats in the house.”
In August last year, the internet company and its production arm, Amazon Studios, donated £500,000 to the Theatre Community Fund, launched by The Crown actor Olivia Colman, Waller-Bridge and Francesca Moody to provide hardship grants to theatre workers and freelancers.
“The National Theatre have brought us some of the most memorable theatrical productions of the last decade, and we are delighted to give our customers across the UK and Ireland an opportunity to experience them,” said Martin Backlund, head of content for the UK, Ireland and Nordics at Prime Video. “The cream of UK acting talent so often started their career in theatre, and we want to shine a light on the incredible heritage we have here.”
The deal comes a week after British cinemas re-opened their doors for the first time since last year as the government continues to ease Covid restrictions. Cinema owners enjoyed their strongest opening weekend in the UK since movie theatres were first forced to shut in March last year. The estimated £7m in ticket sales, led by Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, beat the previous pandemic high of £6m taken by Tenet when it was released last August.
Amazon is in talks to buy MGM, the Hollywood studio behind the James Bond and Rocky franchises, for as much as $9bn (£6.3bn) as it battles against rivals including Netflix and Disney+ in the global fight for streaming supremacy.