Redevelopment signals end for storied venue, Loews may close

This article was corrected on Aug. 28, 2001.

Developers have filed plans to remodel Century City’s ABC Entertainment Center into a 15-story mixed-use high-rise in a pricey makeover of the landmark property that will see the shuttering of the Shubert Theater.

The proposal aims to rejuvenate the high-profile commercial property, which has been greatly underoccupied since Disney consolidated much of the site’s former ABC operations into an Alphabet web campus in Burbank. It’s unclear how the redevelopment — carrying costs north of $200 million — may affect the existing complex’s Loews Cineplex multiplex, but a spokeswoman for the struggling Loews chain said the company is already mulling closure of the cinema.

“As part of our overall review of operations, we are reviewing the Century Plaza Theater and evaluating whether or not this is a site we want to continue operating,” spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said.

Plans filed by developer Trammell Crow with the city of Los Angeles on Friday call for 769,000 square feet of office space, restaurants and other retail, including unspecified “cultural facilities.” A project insider said it’s unlikely any such elements will be as lavish as a concert or stage venue, however.

The closing of the 1,800-seat Shubert Theater coincides with the expiration of its lease in September 2002. The storied venue will thus end a 30-year run at the site.

“We would’ve been happy to stay,” said Robert Wankel, executive vice president of the Shubert Organization. “It leaves us with no theater in L.A., and we’re looking at (the future).”

Abba finale?

Wankel said the Shubert org has not decided which shows to present next year or which, if any, venue to pursue. It hopes to bring back “Mamma Mia,” the Abba musical that played here before its Broadway run, as the theater’s final production.

Trammel Crow manages ABC Entertainment Center on behalf of client JPMorgan Fleming Asset Management, which bought the property in 1998. Site will be renamed 2000 Avenue of the Stars after the redevelopment is complete.

Plans also call for major landscaping improvements in common areas adjacent to the ABC Center, which is part of the larger Century Plaza complex of high-rises and the shopping center. Among the structures to be razed are the eight-story twin office buildings central to the site. New design is intended to be more in line with the 44-story Century Plaza Towers that define the Century City skyline.

Site is a stone’s throw from MGM’s intended digs in Century City, a glitzy high-rise set for completion by 2004.

“The goal of our revitalization plan is to create a very inviting yet functional environment within the urban context of Century City,” said Trammell senior veep Daniel Niemann. “We think tenants of the complex, as well as community residents, will welcome this much-needed renovation.”

Musicals abounded

The 2,000-seat Shubert opened in July 1972 with a production of “Follies” direct from its Broadway run at the Winter Garden Theater. The 1970s and 1980s produced several long-running musicals that filled the Shubert but made it difficult for the parent org to maintain a subscription series.

Megahits “A Chorus Line,” “Evita,” “Annie,” “42nd Street,” “Dreamgirls,” “Cats” and “Les Miserables” ran from one to two years there.

In the last 10 years, the Shubert was the home to a number of pre-Broadway runs, most notably “Ragtime,” “Sunset Boulevard” and “Mamma Mia.”

“Kiss Me, Kate” opened Friday at the Shubert, closing out the venue’s first subscription series in 28 years. The Shuberts produced three of the four shows in the season.

Run by the Nederlander Organization, Broadway/L.A., which prior to “The Lion King” has traditionally booked the Pantages Theater, will present “The Who’s Tommy” Dec. 18-30 at the Shubert as part of its subscription series.

The closing of the Shubert comes as the Kodak Theater at Hollywood and Highland gets its feet wet in the legit theater biz. Already booked there are the ABT’s “Nutcracker” in December and “The Full Monty” in the spring, though no single organization has been brought on board to exclusively present theatrical events there.

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