Zollo, Cole in development agreement
The Shubert Organization has struck an unusual three-year deal with producers Robert Cole and Frederick Zollo under which the org will invest in Cole-Zollo projects that would be guaranteed one of the Shuberts’ 17 Broadway theaters.The influential Shubert Org has not made a deal of this kind with legit producers in more than 25 years. The two producers, whose current hit “A Steady Rain” has broken box office records at the org’s Schoenfeld Theater, will focus on developing and producing new plays and play revivals and also on working with prominent thesps and helmers. The Shuberts will be able to invest a set percentage in a brewing production, or to act as non-investing advisers, all with the under-standing that in return, the show would be guaranteed a Shubert home on the Rialto. (Projects produced by Cole and Zollo without involvement from the Shuberts would compete for a venue with every other producer.) Deal gives the producing pair a strong advantage on the Main Stem, where real estate is a hot commodity and numerous incoming productions vie for a limited number of available theaters. Agreement allies the producers with the company generally considered the most powerful on Broadway in large part because it owns and operates nearly half of the 40 Broadway venues. The move also reps a commitment from the Shubert Org to help back brewing productions in an economic atmosphere that has made fund-raising more difficult. Deal is the first major new initiative for the org since chairman Philip J. Smith and prexy Robert E. Wankel took the reins of the company in the wake of the 2008 death of topper Gerald Schoenfeld. Besides the Daniel Craig-Hugh Jackman starrer “Steady Rain,” Cole and Zollo have together produced “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “Angels in America,” among other shows. The pair will work inhouse at the Shubert offices.