British Theatre Magnate to Invest in Its Second Broadway House
This week, it was formally announced that the British theatre magnate Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), who purchased the Lyric Theatre two and a half years ago, has now invested in its second Broadway house. ATG is the largest theatre owner in the United Kingdom, managing 38 theatrical houses across the country. In the United States, it presently owns two theatres in Louisiana, two theatres in Texas, and the Lyric Theatre in New York City, which was formerly the Foxwoods Theatre and the Hilton Theatre, and which is one of the largest houses on Broadway. Since ATG purchased the Lyric, it invested in upgrading the sound system and amenities, but still has not had a hit in this theatre that often houses flops. Due to its enormous size with a capacity of 1,930 seats, it is notoriously difficult to make money in the Lyric. The presently running Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games is experiencing dangerously low box office grosses, and the previous show, On the Town, received positive reviews but closed at a financial loss. Still, ATG has high hopes for the next show to step into the Lyric, the high-stakes Cirque du Soleil show Paramour.
ATG has now stepped up to sign a long-term lease on the Hudson Theatre, which is in the heart of the Broadway district on West 44th Street, between Broadway and 6th Avenue. The theatre is presently owned by Millennium Hotels and Resorts, and in past years has been used for a variety of functions including meetings and events. The theatre was first built in1903, when it was given a “word of rapture” in the New York Times, for its Greco Roman marble, silk plush trimmings, and ivory proscenium. Since that time, it has been used for plays on and off, as well as radio shows, television shows, a movie theatre, and even a rock club at one time. In 1987, it was given landmark status, and is thus quite well preserved, with a coffered ceiling and marble walls, and substantial room for theatrical light rigging. Upstairs, there is a long vacant duplex apartment, which ATG plans to turn into a nightclub. Unlike the Lyric Theatre, which is most appropriate for musicals or spectacles, the Hudson Theatre is much more modest at 950 seats; this will make it a much better venue for straight plays. ATG is often behind London hits, many of which are plays, that transfer to Broadway. This new investment will provide a new venue for their own producing, as well as the work of other producers, including their wholly owned subsidiary Sonia Friedman Productions (King Charles III, Jerusalem, The River).
$10 Million Renovation to Upgrade the Theatre
According to Howard Panter, who, along with his wife Rosemary Squire, is co-chief executive of ATG, their company will invest $10 million into renovating the space. These refurbishments will include modern backstage facilities including dressing rooms, new seats, upgraded bathrooms, and additional lounge areas in adjacent areas presently used as office space. This project, though shepherded by ATG, is a collaboration with Millennium Hotels and Resorts, which will continue on as owner of the building, while ATG adopts a long-term lease. Nevertheless, they are fully behind the proposal to transform the building into the Broadway theatre that they agree it is destined to become. While the Tony Awards committee will need to officially deem productions in the Hudson Theatre as eligible for Tony consideration, it is expected that it will certainly pass. Broadway productions are required to be in the specific midtown theatre district (the Hudson certainly is), and over 500 seats (the Hudson has 950). Therefore, this new theatre will add a much needed venue to the Broadway landscape, where producers are often vying for scarce theatres amidst and overabundance of theatrical content.
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