NEW YORK — Disney pulled out all the stops in unveiling its newly restored New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd Street Wednesday, though it announced far more extravagant plans for the premiere of its film “Hercules” in Gotham this June.
Disney topper Michael Eisner, New York Gov. George Pataki and Gotham Mayor Rudolf Giuliani were on hand to celebrate the rebirth of the ornate Art Nouveau landmark, which was built in 1903 and most famously housed the Ziegfeld Follies in the 1920s, but stood in near-ruin when the Mouse House undertook renovations two years ago.
Giuliani credited Disney’s 1995 decision to invest in the theater as the “turning point” for the rejuvenation of the beleaguered, crime-ridden Times Square area.The $36 million New Amsterdam restoration project was conducted by Walt Disney Imagineering, and included an investment of $14 million each from the city and state, according to Disney.
Disney used the theater opening as an opportunity to announce lavish plans for the premiere of its animated film “Hercules” in New York June 13-15, in a weekend-long affair. Events planned for the “Hercules” weekend include a Saturday premiere of the movie at the New Amsterdam theater, accompanied by a live stage show and a parade along Fifth Avenue. In addition, free “Hercules”-related live performances and games are skedded for the weekend at the cavernous Chelsea Piers recreation complex.
The New Amsterdam will then host a 12-day exclusive engagement of “Hercules.”
The Wednesday press conference included live performances of songs from “The Lion King,” which will be the first full-scale legit production in the New Amsterdam. The Julie Taymor-directed tuner is slated to debut in November.
But the first show to test the boards at the New Amsterdam will be the Alan Menken-Tim Rice oratorio “King David,” which plays a limited engagement of nine performances starting May 15. Marcus Lovett, who plays the title role, performed “A New Jerusalem” at the press conference.