Dramatic copyright and the 'disneyfication' of theatre space

Brent Salter, Kathy Bowrey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Introduction The existing legal theorization of theatre is preoccupied with discussion of the rights of authors to texts and, in particular, the competing ownership claims of playwrights, directors and producers. This focus draws our attention away from consideration of a much more radical change in the entertainment landscape – the ‘Disneyfication’ of theatrical experience. Disneyfication refers to a shift in the economics of the theatre. The new focus of economic value is not the production of a play and ‘bums on seats’, but the creation of an entertainment precinct and spectacle that draws in the audience to participate in much more extensive consumer relationships. Critiques of this Disneyfication of theatre arose in the USA in the 1990s. This chapter reflects on concerns about Disneyfication against the backdrop of contemporary Australian theatre. In exploring the Australian experience, we discuss structural impediments to global Disneyfication. However, we also expose the limits of copyright law in supporting the aspirations of theatre companies and theatre practitioners today. The Disneyfication of US theatre Over the past twenty years, there has been considerable controversy, particularly in US theatre literature, that stems from the dynamics related to the Disneyfication of New York’s Times Square in the early 1990s, when the Disney Corporation took over theatre spaces and began rejuvenating the theatre district. This transformation was more than a New York City sanctioned theatre development. It was an urban renewal project. Rather than being about producing plays for theatregoers, it was about creating a safe and secure entertainment experience for consumers, supporting Disney’s vertical integration into theatre spectacles as they had done so successfully with their television, film, theme park and merchandising interests in the past.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLaw and creativity in the age of the entertainment franchise
EditorsKathy Bowrey, Michael Handler
Place of PublicationCambridge, UK
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781139626781
ISBN (Print)9781107039896
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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    Salter, B., & Bowrey, K. (2014). Dramatic copyright and the 'disneyfication' of theatre space. In K. Bowrey, & M. Handler (Eds.), Law and creativity in the age of the entertainment franchise (pp. 123-139). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139626781.009