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It’s a New Act for Broadway and the Road

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A new partnership between Pace Theatrical Group and Jujamcyn Theaters, revealed Monday, will create a giant new force in commercial theater and may rewrite some of the rules governing the relationship between Broadway and commercial theater outside New York.

By joining forces, the two companies will control the touring programming at 42 North American theaters, at Jujamcyn’s five Broadway theaters and at four theaters in England.

Pace is already the king of the road in musical theater terms, presenting musicals at venues in 24 U.S. cities--including the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa and the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center’s Terrace Theater--plus two Canadian and three English cities. Pace produces or co-produces 30% to 40% of the shows that appear in those theaters, said Pace chief executive officer Miles Wilkin.

With its five theaters in New York, Jujamcyn is the third largest Broadway landlord. It also operates six theaters in five other U.S. cities and actively produces or co-produces nearly all of the productions that appear at its theaters, according to Jujamcyn President Rocco Landesman.

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Both organizations have subscription bases at all of their non-New York outposts, and this provides a source of revenue that’s relatively stable, compared with the shifting fortunes of non-subscribed Broadway theaters.

With these resources, “there will be a lot more peace of mind for the individual producer,” Landesman said.

The team will form smaller partnerships with individual producers and has already announced deals with two such producers--Margo Lion and Richard Frankel / Thomas Viertel / Steven Baruch.

The new alliance hopes to establish an investment pool of $20 million to $25 million to help develop new shows, with Jujamcyn and Pace themselves providing between one-third and one-half of the money.

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“It will be like a theater mutual fund,” said Landesman, who used to run an actual mutual fund, the Cardinal Fund. “We’re the advisors to the fund"--but of course they’ll also be among its primary investors.

As with mutual funds, the idea is that the combined resources and diversification will lower risk. “When you invest in an individual show,” Wilkin said, “you must have a strong intuition or a crystal ball.”

For Southland theatergoers, the partnership means that some Jujamcyn-sponsored shows that might have played first in Los Angeles might now go to Orange County or Long Beach. However, Landesman and Wilkin both cautioned that would not necessarily be the case, saying the choice of venue would depend on the needs of particular shows.

“In Southern California, there are many options,” Wilkin said. “If we were looking for a 2,500-seat house, we probably would go with Orange County or Long Beach. But if we wanted a smaller regional theater, we would look to the Old Globe or La Jolla.”

“Or the Taper,” interjected Landesman.

At Orange County Performing Arts Center, acting chief operating officer and director of programming Judith O’Dea Morr said, “The collaboration between Jujamcyn and Pace is clearly a step in the right direction. Collaboration is the only way to go in the future. In this case, their different areas of expertise will complement each other.”

This doesn’t mean, however, that Orange County will suddenly see more new shows or pre-Broadway shows. “They’re not very likely to workshop a production in a 3,000-seat hall,” Morr said. “You need a smaller theater to work that out.”

A spokeswoman for Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center said that officials there could not comment on the new partnership because they had not heard about it yet from Pace.

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The new partners will not do everything in tandem. Each will be producing and booking shows that originate from outside the alliance, in addition to their joint projects.

Landesman said that some shows, such as the current Tony-winning revival of “Chicago!,” (produced by Barry & Fran Weissler, not Jujamcyn) will be booked by every presenter who can obtain it, no matter the auspices, while “even guaranteed subscriptions can’t save” some other tours--he cited a recent aborted tour of “Applause.”

The new alliance’s shows will be “mostly musicals” but might include occasional nonmusical plays. Wilkin noted that the current tour of “Master Class,” (a Robert Whitehead / Lewis Allen / Spring Sirkin production) soon to play the Doolittle Theatre, “is playing quite a number of [Pace] theaters.”


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