SFX keeps expanding with Oakdale buy

Will bring in B'way shows and sporting events

WALLINGFORD, Conn. — The family-owned Oakdale Theater, the largest Connecticut venue that books in theatrical product, has a new owner, New York-based SFX Entertainment Inc., a leading promoter, producer and venue operator for live entertainment events.

It is in the process of buying Oakdale for around $12 million as part of $225 million in acquisitions of five separate companies that also include Falk Associates Management Enterprises (FAME), Blackstone Entertainment, Avalon Attractions and Event Merchanding Inc. (EMI). SFX already owns another Connecticut entertainment complex, the vast indoor/outdoor Meadows Music Theater on the outskirts of Hartford.

The closing on Oakdale is scheduled for within two months.

With all of its new acquisitions completed, SFX will have 46 venues either directly owned or operated under lease or exclusive booking arrangements in 22 of the top 50 markets, including 12 amphitheaters in seven of the top 10 markets.

Oakdale circa 1954

The Oakdale Theater, which is halfway between New Haven and Hartford, was founded by Ben Segal in 1954 as an in-the-round summer theater and has remained in the Segal family ever since.

In 1996 it was completely rebuilt into a much larger proscenium house that seats 3,600 for theatrical attractions, 4,800 for other shows, and is now run year-round, mostly as a venue for popular headliner attractions.

Since its rebuilding it has been sponsored by the Southern New England Telecommunications Corp. and known as the SNET Oakdale Theater. SNET has welcomed the SFX purchase.

Broadway comes to Conn.

Among Oakdale’s most recent touring theatrical attractions have been the Broadway-bound revival of the musical “Dreamgirls,” the stage version of “Rugrats” and “Lord of the Dance.” According to SFX director of investor relations Timothy Klahs, Oakdale will continue to book in theatrical shows while also bringing in an even wider range of attractions, possibly including sporting events such as skating and gymnastics.

Of the other four organizations acquired by SFX, FAME, a sports representation and marketing firm, was purchased for approximately $100 million. It’s the country’s leading representative of National Basketball Assn. players. Blackstone, managed by Don Law, a top New England concert promoter concentrating on metropolitan Boston, was purchased for about $80 million.

Avalon, a major concert promoter operating in greater L.A., was acquired for $27 million. And EMI, a leading merchandising contractor for many of the country’s top amphitheaters, was bought by SFX for $8 million.