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K-Pop Boy Band BTS Breaks Event Cinema Record With 'Burn The Stage' Documentary

Nov 22, 2018
Originally published on November 22, 2018 3:58 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A record has been broken.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "BURN THE STAGE: THE MOVIE")

BTS: (Singing in Korean).

SHAPIRO: Last weekend, the South Korean boy band BTS set a new high for tickets sold worldwide, not for a concert but for a concert film, a documentary called "Burn The Stage." It played in theaters in 79 countries and territories for just four days.

This kind of engagement is known as event cinema. And with more than 1.4 million viewers, many of them dancing in the aisles, BTS is now on top, at least in this niche category.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "BURN THE STAGE: THE MOVIE")

SHAPIRO: Now, the concept of event cinema isn't new. The Metropolitan Opera's been doing live simulcast performances in movie theaters for years.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LUCIANO PAVAROTTI: (Singing in Italian).

MATT DONNELLY: Obviously, it's something like, opera might feel a bit dusty.

SHAPIRO: Pavarotti might take issue with being described as dusty, though opera fans do tend to skew older. Variety senior film writer Matt Donnelly says BTS is taking this event cinema concept and tapping into the wallets of a younger generation.

Their documentary, "Burn The Stage," goes behind the scenes of the band's 2017 tour and includes interviews, along with sweeping shots from their live performances. Donnelly says this kind of a concert film has big appeal for fans, and it polishes a band's mythology.

DONNELLY: It gives you glimpses of their earlier work together, how they write, what their process is, maybe the fun they have, their squabbles, but then, sort of excessively, is reverent around what their performance pieces are. Like, it's kind of like a piece of iconography the fans can have. It's as, like, you know, all - everything you're feeling is justified because here we are.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "ONE DIRECTION: WHERE WE ARE - THE CONCERT FILM")

ONE DIRECTION: (Singing) Baby, you light up my world like nobody else. The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed. The way you smile at the ground, it ain't hard to tell.

SHAPIRO: The previous event cinema ticket-selling record was held by One Direction and their 2014 documentary, "Where We Are." Matt Donnelly says it sort of set the world on fire.

DONNELLY: You're talking about mass exposure through press, you know, crazy charting before you get to the actual success of the concert film.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "BURN THE STAGE: THE MOVIE")

BTS: (Singing in Korean).

SHAPIRO: Which is what makes the success of BTS even more impressive.

DONNELLY: With BTS, I think that they're sort of relatively unknown in the U.S. still. It's had some successful public appearances at award shows. And I think that there is a big niche audience for K-pop here at home.

SHAPIRO: That's Matt Donnelly, writer with Variety, talking about the new record held by the K-pop band BTS, most ticket sales for an event cinema production.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "BURN THE STAGE: THE MOVIE")

BTS: (Singing in Korean). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.