The latest public radio program to experiment with the big screen, NPR's fun-loving news quiz show Wait, Wait . . . Don't Tell Me! will be broadcast live in more than 600 movie theaters May 2.
NPR will partner with National CineMedia Fathom Events and BY Experience, two companies that put on many similar live theater events every year, as well as with WBEZ, the home of Wait, Wait's weekly radio program. The special will take the form of an episode of the program, with host Peter Sagal, announcer Carl Kasell and returning panelists Paula Poundstone, Mo Rocca and Tom Bodett. It will also feature call-in participants, as well as celebrity guests who will play "Not My Job."
Doug Berman, the program's executive producer, told Current that the idea for a live Wait, Wait episode in movie theaters had been kicking around for a couple years, inspired by the constant requests the program receives from local stations to do a live special in their area.
"We get so many requests from stations to bring the show to their town or city, and we can only do 10 or 12 a year," Berman said. "With hundreds of stations, it can take a hundred years to get everywhere. And we thought, particularly for stations in smaller markets, this would be a great way to do a Wait, Wait live event."
In addition to sneaking into theaters the night before the opening of comic book blockbuster Iron Man 3, the show will have an encore broadcast in a limited number of theaters the following Tuesday, May 7.
“We’re convinced we’re going to beat [Iron Man] at the box office,” Berman said. “I don’t think they’re going to be any competition for Wait, Wait. We’ll probably push them off the screens.”
NPR announced the event in a Feb. 5 press release.
The live movie-screen simulcast is becoming an increasingly popular tool for public radio. American Public Media's A Prairie Home Companion performed two live events on the big screen in 2010. PRI's This American Life has also dipped its toes into live simulcasting, most recently with The Invisible Made Visible in May 2012, a live edition of the show with added visual elements for movie audiences. That performance is now available for download.