Malaysian digital platform for the arts targets international festival market

A screen shot of the arts performance 'Vortice Voyeur From Water Station' by OtaShogo, which was one of the four ticketed digital shows, hosted by CloudTheatre, at Hong Kong's Along The Edge Arts Festival.

Start small and dream big is a top pandemic-friendly business idea. It seemed to have worked out for theatre duo William Yap, a theatre director/actor and Dennis Lee, a theatre actor, who formed art streaming platform CloudTheatre last May.

At a time when performance venues were closed down due to the movement control order, CloudTheatre filled up gaps in the Malaysian theatre industry and supported stranded theatre makers affected by the pandemic in putting ticketed shows online.

“After a year, CloudTheatre has grown past our own expectations. A year ago, we were still struggling on coping with an audience size of 500 people, while juggling between keeping the server running, fixing errors, and audience support at the same time.

“Today, the platform has grown into a full-fledge automated ticketing and streaming platform for both online and on-ground shows while hosting multiple shows from different countries and having opening nights with an audience size that's equivalent to a full house at Panggung Sari, Istana Budaya (in Kuala Lumpur), ” reveals Lee.

Now, CloudTheatre is ready for its second act by streaming international arts and culture shows. To kick things off, the platform hosted an international arts festival from Hong Kong called Along The Edge Arts Festival from May 12-16.

“We foresee more performing arts will be going digital in the coming future due to two major factors.

“Firstly, technology is rapidly improving. Secondly, the advantage of reaching out to a wider audience no matter where they are in the world is compelling to theatre-makers.

“It is evident that countries like Hong Kong and Taiwan who are less affected by the pandemic, have a more mature performing arts industry and already foresee the need of going digital in a post-pandemic world,” offers Lee.

He adds that besides the Along The Edge Arts Festival, CloudTheatre will also be hosting three upcoming arts festivals, namely the George Town Festival (Malaysia), Malaysian Student Film Festival (Britain), and Let’s Get Together Arts Festival (Taiwan).

Over the recent five-day Along The Edge Arts Festival, there were four ticketed programmes showcased on the platform.

Despite being a pandemic era Hong Kong-based arts festival, the virtual platform gave it a global outlook, with pre-digital world and current-day content programming involving more than 10 countries.

Online theatre is today's reality

Since it began streaming in late May, CloudTheatre has sold over 20,000 tickets to audiences from 50 countries worldwide. Over 120 shows have streamed on the platform.

Lee says the plan this year is to make CloudTheatre the "Global Arts & Culture Digital Hub".

"We want feature more arts and culture performances from different countries to further promote cross-country exposure and exchange for both the audiences and the shows, ” he says.

“Apart from CloudTheatre, we have created another platform called CloudTix to handle both online and on-ground ticketing."

Last November, CloudTheatre won the Startup Awards - Media & Entertainment category at the inaugural Singapore-based TechNode Global’s ORIGIN Innovation Awards 2020.

Some of the notable Malaysian shows streamed on CloudTheatre include the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre’s Unity (1918), Five Arts Centre’s Oppy And Professor Communitas, and Instant Cafe Theatre’s Zoom Parah.

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