The entertainment industry hosts a variety of occupations such as musicians, management, agents, venues, promoters, artist crews, ticketing sales and concession operators, which have all been put out of work over the last six months.
“The theatre business is a business of public assembly, which there is no such thing right now,” said Empire Theatre owner, musician and artist manager Mark Rashotte. “The province says that at this time 50 people can get together at an inside location, but we can’t make a living with 50 people in a 700-seat theatre, it doesn’t make sense.”
As a solution to this, The Empire Theatre has been working hard to create a virtual platform to host live streams as a full production, similar to how an audience in the venue would experience concerts. With eight cameras for multiple production angles, the Empire Theatre has created an exciting format for residents at home.
On Wednesday, August 5, the Empire Theatre hosted its first virtual live stream with internationally renowned Classic Albums Live to present last week’s performance of Led Zeppelin II. This continuing series at the Empire Theatre will feature Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours on Wednesday, August 12 and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon on Wednesday, August 19.
Rashotte recently invested upwards of $50,000 in new equipment, cameras and studio set-up to make live streams and virtual concerts possible for the City of Belleville, Canada.
While most theatres are municipally run or owned by a foundation, The Empire Theatre is one of the few theatres that is privately owned in North America.
Rashotte explained the entire entertainment industry has been devastated and shut down as a result of COVID-19.
“It’s pretty strange when a whole industry shuts down the way that it has,” expressed Rashotte.
With theatres shut down across the globe, Rashotte felt passionate about finding a way to help artists and work crews during these unprecedented times.
“We’re going to be focusing on original acts and Canadian touring acts that would normally be playing at the theatre, but in a virtual, live stream scenario,” he said. “The idea is to generate income for the artists and their crews in a different way. Some live streams will be ticketed and some will be a tip jar type of operation.”
Donations are appreciated via PayPal tip jar or by calling the Empire’s box office at 613-969-0099 ext.1 on the evenings of performances.
Rashotte encourages residents to stay tuned for announcements as the Empire strikes back and continues to work on different shows for the community.
For more information, residents can go to theempiretheatre.com or visit The Empire Theatre on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.