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Netflix will stream Broadway musical Diana before it opens on stage

Hamilton was a huge draw for Disney Plus last month.

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Angela Lang/CNET

Netflix is bringing a version of Broadway to streaming screens next year: The service will premiere a filmed version of new Broadway musical Diana: A True Musical Story sometime in the first five months of 2021 before the show officially opens on stage. 

New York City's Broadway theaters have been shuttered since March, when the coronavirus epidemic was out of control in the city, and they're expected to remain closed for at least the rest of this year. Broadway going dark for months has been devastating to New York's theatrical industry. 

Meanwhile, the streaming of filmed theatrical productions had a moment in the sun last month, when Netflix-rival Disney Plus premiered a stage-capture movie of the blockbuster musical Hamilton. Hamilton spurred a surge of Disney Plus subscribers, and one firm estimated that streaming demand for Hamilton far outstripped anything Netflix released that month. 

On March 2, the staged version of Diana had begun previews, which refers to a period of time when a show is performed for audiences but is still being adjusted prior to its official opening. The show -- which is about Diana, the Princess of Wales, a British royal who captivated public attention -- had been scheduled to open at the end of March at the Longacre Theatre, but that opening date was postponed until May 25 because of the virus. 

To record a version of the musical to stream on Netflix, Diana will be filmed, without an audience, on the stage of the Longacre with the original Broadway cast.

Netflix, alongside other streaming video services, has been experiencing record growth during the coronavirus pandemic. With movie theaters shuttered, big-budget film releases delayed and live sports having rocky outcomes as they attempt to restart, streaming has grown in popularity for people to entertain themselves during lockdown.

Netflix, with its eye-popping slate of original content and its stream-at-home model, is already ideally positioned to keep serving up new programming to people stuck at home and desperate for entertainment. But adding a Broadway show, especially one that hasn't officially opened yet, is a big departure not only for Netflix but also for Broadway itself. 

Netflix has streamed stage captures of theatrical productions before, but these are usually long-established shows that have already closed. And it's highly unusual for Broadway to broadcast or stream any of its productions while they're still running, let alone before a show has even opened. 

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