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Harry Potter parody play Puffs will stream online while still in theaters

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The Off-Broadway play is about to be a very interesting test case for theatrical streaming

Photo: Hunter Canning (Puffs)

Puffs — the popular Off-Broadway play that reimagines the events of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book and film series from the perspective of the often-unsung Hufflepuff house — is about to make history. Representatives for the comedy play have announced that Puffs will debut online on the theatrical streaming service BroadwayHD on October 18th. Per Playbill, an iTunes and Amazon release will follow on November 22nd.

Puffs (full name: Puffs, Or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic) certainly isn’t the first play to be professionally filmed or to have a live-staged recording released in theaters or online. What makes Puffs different is that it’ll be the first major Broadway or Off-Broadway show to offer a widely available version of its show while it’s still playing onstage. (Strictly speaking, She Loves Me — which aired a single live stream of a performance on BroadwayHD 11 days before closing in 2016 — takes the crown here, but Puffs will see a far wider release for a far more significant time.) No close date for Puffs has been announced; tickets are currently on sale through November 2019.

The idea of filming shows for future theatrical or streaming runs isn’t new. Rent kicked off the trend back in 2008 when Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway hit theaters. Since then, shows like Newsies, Bandstand, She Loves Me, Holiday Inn, Indecent, Falsettos, Oh, Hello, and Shrek the Musical have all seen wider releases in one form or another. Fathom Events has also released a wide variety of simulcast opera and theater events in movie theaters, and the past two years have seen a trend of live-staged musicals like Grease Live! and Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert that are created specifically for simulcast television events.

More are on the way, too: Netflix is planning to release a recording of Springsteen on Broadway after it closes on December 15th, and a bidding war is in the works for the rights to the filmed stage production of Hamilton featuring the original Broadway cast.

But all these productions only hit theaters, streaming, or cable after their theatrical runs were done. Puffs could serve as an interesting trial balloon for the rest of the Broadway industry, showing whether releasing shows online, where a much wider, less geographically locked audience can access them, is a viable revenue stream that doesn’t undercut profits for the actual stage show.