The Playgoer: Henry Miller 's Theater

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Henry Miller 's Theater

So the Henry Miller's Theater has been demolished, even though the handsome 1918 facade (above left) remains thanks to Landmark protection. Bank of America is building a huge tower on the site (half the block, actually) but they were actually mandated by the city to keep that space a performance venue.

Their solution is the photo on the right. And which needy theatre company is it going to? The Roundabout, of course.

Of Todd Haimes, the president of Roundabout, Mr. Durst [Douglas Durst of the Durst real estate empire] said: “I’ve watched Todd, both as a part of Times Square and as a board member, and he’s just been so successful at the projects he’s undertaken that we thought the best way to go would be with Roundabout.”
Success breeds more success, right?

Actually, I should be clear that the prospect of giving a smaller company a home in this Broadway-size 1000-seat* space seems never to have even been on the table. Roundabout's competitors were not even nonprofits:
The Shuberts, Nederlanders and the Jujamcyn theater chain all approached the Durst Organization about the theater, some interested in becoming owners or part owners, but were unable to make a deal. As a long-term tenant it was Roundabout that fit the bill, said Douglas Durst, a co-president of the Durst Organization.
And as reporter Campbell Robertson adds parenthetically,
(It can’t hurt that Mr. Durst sits on the Roundabout’s board.)
Has the line between the theatre and real estate businesses just gotten that blurred?

Mr. Haimes, I'll give you the last word:

But what is the Roundabout, a nonprofit company whose official mission is to interpret “the masterpieces of the world’s great theatrical heritage” doing looking for a popular hit?

“I have no problem producing something that I think is popular or commercial to make money,” Mr. Haimes said, “as long as the money goes for the not-for-profit purpose.”

“The reality,” he added, “is that the only way we ever sort of get ahead of the game financially is to have some successful shows.”

BTW, the Miller is where Urinetown played and the Roundabout's Cabaret first opened. It is not named after the writer Henry Miller, but instead this guy. But that will hardly matter once Haimes renames it "Chucky Cheese Performance Center" or something.

ADDENDUM: More on the building project from Crain's:
The city's Industrial Development Agency said Thursday that it approved $650 million in tax-exempt bonds to help refinance construction of the Bank of America tower at One Bryant Park.

The refinancing assistance is part of about $900 million in incentives approved by the agency.

IDA will issue $650 million in tax-exempt bonds to replace tax-exempt Liberty Bonds that were originally issued in 2004. The 2.1 million square foot Bank of America tower, which will serve as the bank's New York City headquarters, is expected to generate annual tax revenue of $4.88 billion for the city over the next 50 years.
Yes, you heard that. $650 million tax-free bonds plus other "incentives." Incentives for Bank of America to make more millions and blot our landscape. Nonprofit is for suckers, man.

*Correction: I have corrected my previous typo on the number of seats in the projected theatre. It's a thousand, not a hundred.


George Hunka said...

Please, Garrett, double-check your sources.

It's not "Chucky Cheese." It's "Chuck E. Cheese." And you call yourself a reporter.

Anonymous said...

A quick reaction, avoiding the main issue: in what sense is a 100-seat house "Broadway-size"? I've never seen the contracts, but I thought the main definition of Broadway was in terms of numbers of seats, and 100 (I thought) wasn't it.

parabasis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
parabasis said...

Just writing in to say my own take on it is here:

And also that I think this is ridiculous.