Sale allows Lloyd Webber to focus on more lucrative musical houses

LONDON — The West End theater ownership graph has been redrawn with the July 7 sale of four of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful theaters to a new entity, Nimax.

The four venues — the Lyric, Apollo, Duchess and Garrick — are generally used for plays, though the Apollo is hosting black British tuner “The Big Life” and the Lyric was home for several seasons to “Five Guys Named Moe.” The venues together represent just over 2,900 seats.

The sale makes a serious West End player out of Oklahoma-based mogul Max Weitzenhoffer. But the company will be run on a day-to-day basis by partner Nica Burns, who for the last 13 years has worked for Really Useful. Burns now will co-own the theaters she has long programmed.

New venture starts operations Oct. 3 and will include the management of the Vaudeville, which Weitzenhoffer bought in 2001.

The £11.5 million ($20.2 million) sale frees Lloyd Webber to focus his attention on his more lucrative musical houses, such as the Palladium and Drury Lane. And should Lloyd Webber choose to sell off his seven remaining venues, as has long been rumored, the package doubtless will be more attractive without four smaller, pesky playhouses along for the noncommercial ride.

Weitzenhoffer, in any case, is hardly in it for the money, but instead for the chance to work in an atmosphere that reminds him of the Broadway in which he first began producing some 30 years ago.

“The climate in London means you can do the kind of plays you really want to do; you might call them arthouse plays,” the 65-year-old impresario told Variety.

As of next year, when the leasehold of the Gielgud reverts to Cameron Mackintosh, Shaftesbury Avenue will no longer have a single Really Useful Theater except for the Palace, where Lloyd Webber’s latest, “The Woman in White,” has just entered its second cast.

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