In light of the pandemic, cultural institutions have become only too aware of their need to embrace the virtual world in order to maintain contact with audiences. As a result, some are launching their own streaming services, rethinking the cultural experience through the medium of screens. And it's a trend that seems to be lasting.
Whether visiting a virtual exhibition, watching an opera online or listening to a classical music concert via your computer, our cultural practices have moved in a distinctly digital direction in recent years, especially since the pandemic's various restrictions and lockdowns. The phenomenon is such that the Italian government has decided to launch its own streaming platform to promote the country's culture online.
The "ITsART" service offers access to more than 1250 events and shows either on demand or broadcast live. It is divided into three sections: "Stage" with operas such as "La Traviata" or "Carmen," "Sites" with virtual tours of museums and historical monuments such as the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, and "Stories" with documentaries and films such as "The Last Movie Painter" about the artist Renato Casaro.
Users can sign up for free to "ITsART," although some content is pay-per-view. This initiative has its roots in the pandemic, when Italian cultural institutions suffered a sharp drop in visitors. Many reacted by offering digital experiences ranging from virtual tours to live events with their curators and exhibition managers.
Helping national culture shine on the world stage
Now united in the "ITsART" initiative, the platform's founders hope that it will help Italy's cultural heritage shine on the global stage. It is available in all European Union countries as of Tuesday, November 23, and is coming soon to the United States and China. "We will now focus on raising the level and depth of our content offering to make sure Italian culture is accessible for everyone," said Guido Casali, CEO of ITsART, as quoted by Variety.
Other organizations have recently launched streaming platforms to showcase the cultural heritage of a country or region. In February, the Kino Klassika Foundation launched Klassiki , a video-on-demand service dedicated to classic film from Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Every week, fans have access to classic movies from the region, such as Nikita Mikhalkov's "Slave of Love" and Stanislav Rostotsky's "We'll Live 'Till Monday" or Grigori Kozintsev's "Hamlet" adaptation.
Based in London, the Kino Klassika Foundation saw a real interest in Russian cinema among Britons during the pandemic. "Thousands of people have tuned in to watch our weekly films [during covid lockdowns], we've screened everything from Russian comedy to Armenian drama," said Justine Waddell, founder of the Kino Klassika Foundation, cited in Russian Art & Culture, "and so the idea for Klassiki, the first-ever video-on-demand platform dedicated to classic films from Russia and beyond was born."
Earlier this month another streaming platform launched in North America, this time with a catalog dedicated to French cinematic works. The subscription-based Cinessance service features everything from animation to New Wave classics and recent hits.
15 million views for National Theatre plays
London's National Theatre also saw an appetite for its productions during the pandemic, culminating in the launch of its own streaming service, National Theatre at Home , last December. This was first trialed during the initial covid-19 lockdown, when British theaters and cinemas were closed. For 16 weeks, plays from the National Theatre were made available free of charge on the institution's YouTube channel every Thursday, before being made available on demand for the next seven days. And the initiative proved a real success, with more than 15 million views in four months.
"We were overjoyed to have had 15 million views for National Theatre at Home earlier this year and to discover we had reached so many audiences new to theater both in the UK and worldwide. At a time when many people were isolated at home, it was uplifting to see audiences recreate the shared experience of visiting the theater," Lisa Burger, Executive Director and Joint Chief Executive of the National Theatre, said in a statement. "And so, since the last stream finished in July, we have been determined to find a way to give our audiences access to these stunning filmed productions online once again."
Users can now purchase a monthly or annual subscription to access the entire National Theatre at Home catalog, as well as exclusive behind-the-scenes content. They can also rent selected filmed performances for 72 hours. Going to the theater has never been so convenient!