When Stewart Lane announced plans last week to lease the Biltmore Theater to the owner of the Roxy Delicatessen, Actors’ Equity executive secretary Alan Eisenberg offered to see if there was another way to save the venerable theater.
But it was probably too late.
Lane, who bought the Biltmore with the Nederlander Organization at a fire sale a couple of years ago, hoped to turn the 1,000-seat house into a smaller theater, possibly two. But he demanded staffing concessions that the Broadway unions were unwilling to grant (do it for one, they said, and everyone will want to follow suit).
So now the theater is about to be leased to Jacob Benoha, who owns the Roxy, just up West 47th Street from the theater. The lease runs for 10 years, with an option for another five. Though the interior of t he badly damaged theater is landmarked, Benoha still could turn it into a restaurant or an entertainment complex.
Lane once spoke of making the Biltmore the Nederlander’s prime jewel of a playhouse. Now, he says of the lease plan, “It was not an easy decision to make.”