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Ryan Johnson, Published March 27 2014

Met operas, live at your local Fargo megaplex

FARGO – New York’s world-famous Metropolitan Opera House is more than 1,000 miles away.

But when the venue stages Puccini’s “La Bohème” on April 5, Fargo-Moorhead residents will only need to travel to West Acres Cinema to watch the opera – live, and for a fraction of Met ticket prices.

“They enjoy it more on the big screen because they’re up close and personal, and they get to see the backstage stuff,” said General Manager Rick Solarski.

For several years, Marcus Theatres’ two megaplexes in Fargo have held special broadcasts of live events like this, as well as other alternative programming for niche audiences.

The operas have been popular, he said, and people had to be turned away from the Century 10 Cinema in Fargo when Garth Brooks came out of retirement to play a concert that was beamed into Marcus Theatres screens across the nation.

But many times, Solarski said the biggest hurdle is simply letting local viewers know what’s coming next.

Unlike the first-run movies that usually play here, these special events often lack promotion budgets and are barely advertised, he said.

“A lot of them are just one-offs and one time only, so you’ve just got to do the best you can through word of mouth, and hopefully people will start looking for it when they get more accustomed to these unique events,” he said.

Prices and showtimes depend entirely on the event, Solarski said. The upcoming live presentation of “La Bohème,” for example, will start at 11:55 a.m. on April 5, and will cost $24 for adults or $18 for children 11 and younger. Many other special screenings cost $10 or $15, he said.

These live events are made possible by upgrades in theater technology in recent years, relying on digital projectors and a satellite connection to beam the operas of New York into Fargo.

The local theaters also have shown live plays from London, recently drew a small crowd to watch the Drum Corps International competition, and occasionally air religious or political documentaries or films that appeal to niche audiences.

Presentations of “RiffTrax Live,” with light-hearted skewering of films by the people behind “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” also have been popular.

Marcus Theatres shows encore presentations of many of these live events, just in case the original broadcast doesn’t work for a viewer’s schedule. The upcoming Met opera will be reshown at 6:30 p.m. on April 9, and many other live events are in theaters one more time the week after their premiere.

Other special events on tap include the band documentary “Lamb of God: As the Palaces Burn,” which will air at 9:30 p.m. Monday at West Acres Cinema, a Champions League Cheerleading competition at 7:30 p.m. April 10 at both West Acres Cinema and Century Cinema, and “Bolshoi Ballet: Golden Age” at 6:30 p.m. April 15, also airing at both Fargo megaplexes.

Two more Met operas, as well as a one-time presentation of Focus on the Family’s “Irreplaceable,” also are in the lineup for this spring.

To view the latest special events coming to the theater chain’s screens, visit http://marcustheatres.com/Movie/Events.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587