Finally, it’s official.
With the Allman Brothers Band playing over a sound system, and band keyboardist Greg Allman sitting nearby, Madison Square Garden prexy Jim Dolan stood on the worn and creaky stage of the Beacon Theater and announced that MSG Entertainment will buy the venerable Gotham venue and shut the doors for a nine-month renovation.
The purchase makes the Beacon, a historic entertainment landmark on the Upper West Side, the fourth city venue in the company’s portfolio, joining Madison Square Garden, the Theater at MSG and Radio City Music Hall.
For two decades, the Beacon was home to roughly 70 concerts and assorted events per year. Under new management, that number will increase to more than 90.
“I remember something about each night I played here,” said Allman, referring to his band’s annual March run, which, over the years, totals about 150 perfs. “I sat right there.”
Allman craned his neck and looked around the theater as if laying eyes on it for the first time.
“It’s definitely time for a facelift,’ he said.
Dolan said his company would invest a minimum of $10 million to renovate the shabby venue. Glancing around the house, he said he’d start with the 2,800 ugly gray seats.
“They look like they’re covered in that all-season carpet material,” said Dolan, who is chairman of Madison Square Garden and president-CEO of Cablevision Systems Corp. “Those have to go.”
One source said renovations will include tearing out the seats on the orchestra level, making the venue general admission and adding concessions.
Designed by Chicago architect Walter Ahlschlager in the Art Deco style, the Beacon Theater opened in 1929 as a forum for vaudeville acts, musical productions, drama, opera and movies.
After buying Radio City Music Hall, MSG Entertainment renovated the midtown venue, spending about $70 million. Dolan said he plans to do the same with the Beacon Theater and is scheduling its closure in early 2008.
Prior to the sale, Live Nation managed and operated the theater.
MSG Entertainment would not discuss specifics of the deal.