Really Useful sale

Nimax buys four of Lloyd Webber's venues

This article was updated at 6:01 p.m.

LONDON — London has a new theater-owning entity in Nimax, the partnership of Max Weitzenhoffer and Nica Burns, who Monday announced their purchase of four of the 12 West End playhouses that make up Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful property portfolio.

The £11.5 million ($20.2 million) deal was made late Thursday, the day of the terrorist attacks during London’s morning rush hour.

The venues concerned are playhouses the Garrick, Apollo, Lyric and Duchess, totaling 2,907 seats.

In 2001, Broadway impresario Weitzenhoffer bought the 700-seat Vaudeville Theater, home to “Stomp!”

Nimax will assume ownership of the playhouses Oct. 3. Burns will step down from her job as production director of Really Useful Theaters, where she has worked for 13 years.

“I book those theaters anyway,” Burns told Daily Variety; she’s an equal partner with Weitzenhoffer in Nimax. “So no one does know those theaters better than me.”

“I think you want to own what it is you really love to do,” said Weitzenhoffer, who has Broadway producing credits dating back nearly 30 years to Frank Langella starrer “Dracula.” He said he hasn’t been a “hands-on” producer on Broadway since 1991’s “The Will Rogers Follies.”

Since then, he has focused his energies on London, where “producing is very much like it was when I started in the 1970s in New York,” i.e., easier and cheaper than modern-day Broadway, he said. Production costs on the West End are generally one-third of what they are on Broadway and often less.

He and Burns have had numerous West End hits, ranging from Christian Slater in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and the Henry Goodman satire “Feelgood” to current David Schwimmer entry “Some Girl(s),” which has already recouped.

The Nimax partnership marries West End theater ownership with producing in a way that hasn’t always been the case in London, especially as compared with Broadway heavyweights like the Shubert Organization, which often produces shows in its playhouses.

But, said Weitzenhoffer, “We didn’t buy these theaters to produce our own shows. We’re very anxious to work with young producers, new people, and this gives us an opportunity to be lenient in tough times when they may run into a problem.”

The two will be setting up an office on the Strand, adjacent to the Vaudeville Theater, but have no plans to expand their operation to New York.

Purchase is part of the ever-changing face of Shaftesbury Avenue away from Really Useful and into the hands of Cameron Mackintosh, who is already running the Queen’s Theater and will take over the leasehold of the neighboring Gielgud early next year, and now Nimax.

That in turn frees up Really Useful to focus on musical theater and on such prized venues as the Palladium and Drury Lane. In a statement, Lloyd Webber said with this sale, “Because the company’s borrowings will be reduced, we will be able to spend a minimum of £10 million ($17.55 million) over the next five years refurbishing and improving” Really Useful’s remaining musical houses.

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