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Jinxed Times Square Theater to Reopen as Retail Space

Atmosphere outdoors the Apollo Theatre and the Times Square Theater in 1936. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The dancing ft of 42nd Street will quickly flip into sq. ft.

After gathering mud for nearly three a long time, the Times Square Theater is about to be reopened as a complicated new retail area. Developer Roy Stillman signed a 25-year lease with the New 42nd Street, which controls the previous Broadway home, and plans to rework it right into a giant industrial website spanning a number of flooring and incorporating features of the theater’s authentic design.

The blueprint now options two glass-enclosed flooring towering above the theater, and Stillman plans to protect the traditional proscenium, dome, and packing containers, very like the AMC Empire 25 situated down the block. The undertaking is estimated to cost about $100 million, and needs to be accomplished inside the subsequent two years.

Built in 1920, the historic Times Square Theater once seated 1,057 theatergoers, and introduced the premieres of The Front Page and the Gershwins’ musical Strike Up the Band. Noël Coward, Gertrude Lawrence, and Laurence Olivier carried out on its stage in Private Lives throughout 1931.

But, within the depths of the Great Depression, the Broadway theater was transformed right into a movie show. An enormous marquee was slapped onto the entrance of the constructing, and its outdated stage and backstage space was became a separate retail area.

Operating alongside a strip of different transformed theaters on 42nd Street, the Times Square Theater screened movies from a number of totally different genres before shutting its doorways round 1990.

Within months of closing, its columned exterior was all boarded up and coated with graffiti. “[I]t’s just a shame,” lamented a former Broadway press agent whereas strolling previous it in 1991.

Yet, as an increasing number of leisure companies started to think about growing real estate on 42nd Street within the following years, the vacant theater attracted lots of consideration. It appeared as if its shiny lights would quickly be turned on again.

MTV dreamed of mixing Times Square Theater with two adjoining theaters to create one giant manufacturing studio. But, when the business was not offered the identical form of “sweet heart” financing deal that Disney had acquired to revive the New Amsterdam Theatre throughout the road, the negotiations fell aside. Garth Drabinsky and his leisure agency Livent swooped in to grab the 2 neighboring theaters, after which merged them to make the Lyric Theatre.

Hoping to match the success of the Hard Rock Cafe and the Rainforest Cafe, Marvel Comics then partnered with Planet Hollywood to make its personal themed restaurant within the area named “Marvel Mania.” But, the plans fell aside in 1996, and the superhero spot was later launched at Universal Studios Hollywood.

In 1997, an affiliate of Billboard journal deliberate to lease the Times Square Theater to create a restaurant and dance membership with reside leisure. The renovations have been estimated to cost between $15 million and $20 million, and Cora Cahan, the president of the New 42nd Street, remarked that “[w]e’re very excited on the prospect of Billboard Live, as a result of they intend to be open all day and effectively into the evening.” Yet, a lease was by no means signed, and the theater remained darkish.

CBS then thought of placing studios within the area, and Burger King even considered turning the 25,000 square-foot venue into its largest location on this planet. Restaurant entrepreneur Warner LeRoy, T.G.I. Friday’s, and Duane Reade additionally expressed some curiosity in leasing the constructing. “We’ve seen myriad proposals for the theater,” recalled Cahan.

In 1998, the New 42nd Street group introduced that the Times Square Theater would turn out to be a Broadway theater again. Livent, which rebuilt the Lyric Theatre subsequent door, deliberate to spend no less than $36 million on the undertaking, which might additionally embody 10,000 sq. ft of workplace area and a restaurant. “We felt that reinventing 5 of the seven historic theaters on 42nd Street with vibrant theatrical life was completely the fitting strategy to go,” commented Cahan.

The World Wrestling Federation, which had submitted a greater bid to construct a themed restaurant within the area, was upset. “I believed we have been suitable with Disney and Warner Brothers, however the board actually wished a conventional theater versus ‘one other leisure sort,'” stated one in all its senior executives. The agency later discovered some area in the bottom of the Paramount constructing, and arrange a wrestling watering gap named The World there.

Yet, the authorized plans to revive the Times Square Theater shortly unraveled.

Less than every week after the preliminary announcement, new administration at Livent found that its chief government officer, Garth Drabinsky, had cooked the books. He was ousted from the agency, and its new management determined to withdraw from the undertaking. “We decided that our proposal didn’t ship enough returns for the firm,” stated Drabinsky’s successor, Roy Furman.

In addition, the Times Square Theater was now not an excellent venue for mounting Broadway exhibits. “There’s no straightforward strategy to load in [scenery] besides from 42nd Street,” Cahan said in a later interview, and, situated proper on raucous thoroughfare, “you have acoustic issues.”

Following the collapse of the Livent deal, the New 42nd Street group searched for an additional tenant, and entered right into a cope with trend label Ecko Unlimited in 2004. The area could be became a modern four-floor retailer promoting city clothes, artwork, and electronics. “When you think of what’s trendy, this is where you’re going to be able to find it,” declared one of many Ecko executives, including that ”[w]e wanted to be in Times Square, the place youth tradition converges.”

However, after paying lease on the area for over 4 years, the style label could not transfer previous the planning phases for its flagship retailer, and deserted the undertaking in 2008. “Their motive was that they have been unable to establish financing for the renovation regardless of assurances over the years that they did,” Cahan said.

Four years later, the New 42nd Street discovered one other tenant for the venue in a brand new enterprise named Broadway 4D. The Times Square Theater could be restored as a movie show with bodily results, screening a three-dimensional movie of standard artists like Hugh Jackman performing well-known songs from musicals. Cahan commented that Broadway 4D is “a very exciting tenant dedicated to restoring the Times Square Theater as a place to celebrate Broadway musicals of the past, present, and future.”

“This is a great project that will only expand the audience for Broadway shows and add to the range of entertainment in Times Square,” added Jimmy Nederlander of the Nederlander Organization, which operates 9 theaters on Broadway.

But, after filming an Evita sequence starring Christina Aguilera in 2014, the team behind Broadway 4D pulled the plug on the undertaking. They could not raise the $80 million or so wanted to finish manufacturing and renovate the theater.

In 2016, the New 42nd Street nearly signed a lease with a Singapore-based occasion planner for the area. However, the agency could not safe government approval for its deliberate development, and the deal died. “There were some financial challenges, and they were unable to fill the obligations even prior to the lease being signed,” Cahan additionally recalled.

With Cahan stepping down from the New 42nd Street after 28 years in June, it’s the hope that historical past won’t repeat itself.

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