N.Y. gov’t to fund B’way upgrade

Details of a new, state-financed loan program to upgrade Broadway theaters are sketchy as state execs form an advisory group comprising theater owners and union officials to help shape the proposal.

But the first tangible benefit is being felt in Hollywood as Broadway’s legit power brokers ended their vehement opposition to a separate state plan to help underwrite the refurbishing of the dilapidated New Amsterdam Theater, on West 42 nd Street near Times Square, by the Walt Disney Co.

News of the loan program came via Gov. Mario Cuomo’s state of the state address last week, when the New York topper promised a new effort to assist Broadway theater owners in the repair and upkeep of landmarked legit houses.

They have long complained that the city and state ignored the needs of Gotham’s commercial theater industry, and news of public subsidies for the Disney plan prompted more than a little consternation.

State officials aren’t linking the new loan program for Broadway’s theater owners with the newfound support by those owners for the Disney plan.

Still, both the Shubert Organization and Jujamcyn Theaters — two of the city’s three major theater owning and producing companies — immediately dropped their objections to the Disney proposal in the wake of Cuomo’s pledge. The Nederlander Organization hadn’t weighed in either way.

Gerald Schoenfeld, chairman of the Shubert Organization, said Friday that the theater owners and unions soon would meet with city and state officials “to coordinate the implementation” of the program.

While state officials have so far mentioned only physical renovations with regard to the loan program, Schoenfeld said he hopes the “revolving loan fund” also would be available for production costs under certain circumstances.

Susan Glass, a spokeswoman for Vincent Tese, the state’s director of economic development, said that while criteria have yet to be determined, the loans probably will be geared toward refurbishment.

Most likely, she said, the money will be available to “landmark theaters that need facade or interior work — infrastructure kinds of things.” Requests would be handled on “a project by project basis.”

Rocco Landesman, president of Jujamcyn Theaters, was unavailable for comment Friday.

Other details of the program — dollar amounts, who would be eligible, and virtually all other significant details — have yet to be hammered out, according to Glass.

“This has been in the works for a couple of months,” Glass said. She said the program will entail both state and city involvement, although to what extent hasn’t been determined.

The plan apparently was developed after theater owners and union reps met with execs of the 42nd Street Development Project last November to voice their opposition to the use of public money for the Disney project — money they had long (and unsuccessfully) sought to bolster the district.

Mickey & Co., meanwhile, has yet to comment on the company’s widely reported plans to renovate the New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd Street for use as a multimedia entertainment complex.

The plan, tied to the proposed multimillion-dollar city/state renovation of Times Square, apparently will involve some public money for renovating the run-down theater.

But the new state plan to make loans available to the street’s traditional theater owners brought Disney some welcome appeasement from the legit owners.

Without the Shubert/Jujamcyn roadblock, Disney’s eastward expansion seems a likelier proposition.

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