Dodger plans Off B’way complex, new theaters

Ende promises five new legit houses by next September

AMSTERDAM — Dodger/Stage Holding, the New York-based theatrical outfit behind such productions as “Urinetown” and the revival of “Into the Woods,” is moving ahead with plans to build five new luxury Off Broadway theaters with a central box office and restaurant at the Worldwide Plaza between 50th and 51st Street in New York City.

Dodger is 60%-owned by Dutch-based live entertainment company Stage Holding, whose sole owner Joop van den Ende told Daily Variety that Dodger will renovate the 55,361-square-foot former Loews Cineplex Odeon Theater.

While advanced negotiations for the renovation continue, the opening is slated for September 2003, according to Van den Ende.

Plans are for Dodger to bow five theaters, two houses with 499 seats each, two with 400 seats each and another with 299 seats. A central box office joining all five houses and a posh restaurant are also planned.

While Dodger, whose main partners include Michael David and Edward Strong, owns a 40% share of Dodger Stage Holding, Van den Ende said Dodger runs the show. “I am often in New York, but my feeling is that the American market has to be run by Americans.”

Stage Holding is developing a handful of productions, among them a version of “Dracula” for New York. The new space will provide venues for Dodger/Stage Holding productions but also for other local productions as well, Van den Ende said.

After transplanting itself to Germany last year, Stage Holding is now on the verge of becoming the largest theatrical outfit in that territory.

Stage Holding will open its first office in London on June 1 and plans expansion into Spain, France, Italy and Eastern Europe in the future.

Van den Ende helped found, along with John De Mol, the Dutch-based production outfit Endemol, a company whose formats such as “Big Brother” have traveled across the globe.

The multimillionaire and philanthropist, who began his life in the theater and calls it his first love, left Endemol several years ago when it was sold to Spanish media giant Telefonica.

Dodger/Stage Holding’s revival of “42nd Street,” which last year won two Tonys, is one of the five top grossers on Broadway, although it has not yet recouped its initial capitalization. A road company production of the revival begins its tour in August. “Urinetown” and “Into the Woods” have each been nominated for 10 Tonys.