Gibson Amphitheatre to close in Universal City expansion

Among the events held over the years at the Gibson Amphitheatre was Power 106-FM's Cali Christmas concert in December.
(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

Fans of radio-station round-tables, norteño titans and pop stars on the make will have to find a new venue to see their favorites. The Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City will close in September as part of a massive overhaul of Universal Studios.

“We, like music lovers across Los Angeles, will miss Gibson Amphitheatre,” said Bret Gallagher, president of North American Concerts, Southern California/Las Vegas for Live Nation, in a statement today. “It is a tremendous venue with a uniquely intimate setting that has made it a very special place for fans and artists alike. The list of musicians that have played here is simply staggering... While a change like this is difficult, we look forward to putting together a series of great shows that will celebrate everything about this marvelous building.”

The venue’s lease expires in September, and it will be torn down to make room for a thorough revamp and expansion of Universal Studios, with the new “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” ride expected to take its place in the complex. The news confirms long-held rumors first voiced by L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.


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The venue first opened as the open-air Universal Amphitheatre in 1972 on the Universal lot. Though located in the maw of Universal CityWalk -- and perhaps lacking the historic charm of venues such as the Greek Theatre or the Hollywood Palladium -- the venue has hosted many of the biggest acts in rock, folk, Latin and pop music.

Bob Dylan, Madonna, Fleetwood Mac and David Bowie are among the legends to play there. Lately it had been a home base for contemporary hip-hop and R&B; acts such as Pitbull and Mary J. Blige, radio-station festivals such as Power 106-FM’s Cali Christmas and KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas, and has hosted speaking engagements from five U.S. presidents, including Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

The Gibson has long been a marquee L.A. venue for Latin acts such as Jenni Rivera, Mana and Jaguares. Norteño legend Vicente Fernandez will close out his final tour with three dates at the Gibson this weekend.

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Live Nation said it plans to relocate most shows scheduled for after September there, and will offer refunds for any shows canceled due to the change.

Venues such as the 7,000-capacity Nokia Theatre and the 6,000-set Greek will likely pick up the slack left from the closing of the 6,000-capacity Gibson. Even if nobody could really call the Gibson a neighborhood venue, or a visually iconic part of L.A. music lore, its artist alumni roster is considerable, and it was a staple performance space for many essential genres in L.A. music.


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