Webster Theatre Sold To Mass. Concert Promoter
It's the end of an era for the Webster Theatre: Justine Robertson, whose family had built the Barry Square venue and operated it since it opened in 1937, has sold the business to Massachusetts concert promoter John Peters.
Peters, owner of Worcester-based MassConcerts, is expected to take control by the end of this week of the largest rock club in Connecticut. The purchase price was not disclosed.
"It's a very stressful business, and it's time for me to go back to being a wife, a mother and a grandmother," Robertson said Tuesday. "I loved the business, but it seemed to me like it was the time to do it."
The Webster operated as a first-run movie theater for nearly 40 years, before intermittent stints in the '70s and '80s as a theater for family, foreign and, eventually, porn movies.
"The Webster was the premiere movie theater in Hartford," Robertson said. "It was the first air-conditioned movie theater, it was done in an Art-Deco style. When I'd walk in there, my Aunt Bea would be in the box office, my father would be running around, we could order anything we wanted, Eskimo Pies, or whatever."
Robertson and her father, Albert H. Shulman, reopened the venue as a live-music hall in 1996, and it has hosted hundreds of concerts since, from Kid Rock to No Doubt, Jay-Z to Gillian Welch, along with shows by the Flaming Lips, Queens of the Stone Age and many more.
"I think one of my favorite, favorite concerts was the two nights we had of Godsmack" in 1999, Robertson said, recalling singer Sully Erna as "one of the nicest people I could run into."
"The staff did a beautiful job, and it was just such a success, from start to finish," she said.
Shulman died in 2003, and Robertson bought out her siblings to continue running the Webster.
Tragedy struck the Webster last year, when booker Ben Wu disappeared while on the island of Tortola to attend the wedding of Robertson's daughter. Wu is presumed to have drowned. Robertson, who had in the past fielded inquiries about selling the theater, said the incident helped her decide to sell if she got the right offer. Peters made the right offer.
"He is the right person for the Webster and the right person for Hartford," Robertson said.
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