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Circle all square

Theater plans commercial path to B'way

NEW YORK — After two years of tax and bankruptcy complications that put the theater in dormancy, the Circle in the Square Theater seems ready to rejoin Broadway as a commercial house.

The nonprofit company that the theater was home to since 1968 suspended operations in June 1997 after declaring bankruptcy in August 1996. The lease on the theater, which is owned by real estate company the Paramount Group, subsequently became the object of a court battle between the company’s creditors and its former management.

Now, after a ruling in May by U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Tina Brozman, the case has been dismissed in favor of Jujamcyn VP and production director Paul Libin and Theodore Mann, longtime operators of the Circle in the Square. Mann co-founded the theater in 1951 and was a former co-artistic director.

Looking for tenants

“The bankruptcy case against us is dismissed,” said Libin. “We retain control, and we are now in the process of looking for tenants.”

Libin declined to identify possible takers, but several insiders with knowledge of the situation say a deal is being explored for the Manhattan Theater Club to take over the unusual theater-in-the-round space.

Manhattan Theater Club director Barry Grove was on vacation and could not be reached for comment. But a deal for the space makes sense for the MTC, since it would give the venerable Off Broadway company a Broadway house, and thus Tony eligibility and the cachet that comes with it.

Another part of the problem is that the space, which is without walls but is convertible to a more conventional three-wall theater, would require a hefty injection of cash to accommodate more conventional Broadway productions.

Officials at the Paramount declined to comment, citing a policy of not speaking to the press. Mosher could not be reached for comment.

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