Vancouver arts center struggles

Plays close, jobs cut but owners insist show will go on

VANCOUVER — Vancouver’s troubled Center for Performing Arts has canceled productions and laid off two senior managers, but the four Denver-based brothers who own it have denied it will close.

The former Ford Theater, once part of the bankrupt Livent chain, is being rented for 27 days for the filming of “Catwoman” starring Halle Berry and Sharon Stone.

Two shows planned for spring — “Hamlet” and “The Fantasticks” — will not open, but “Terracotta Warriors,” a Chinese action musical, is still scheduled to open in April.

The Law brothers, all physicians, bought the 1,800-seat theater for C$7.75 million ($5.96 million) in 2001. It cost Livent $20.75 million to build in 1995. The Hong Kong-raised brothers hoped a combination of Broadway-style musicals and Chinese-themed shows would appeal to Vancouver auds.

“We expect to draw from the city’s large Chinese population,” Dennis Law told Daily Variety when the theater opened. However, most of the shows have lost money. Only dance show “Burn the Floor” made a healthy profit this season, with “The Full Monty,” “42nd Street,” “Cabaret” and “Blast!” all losing money.

The center plans to reduce costs by relying on shows brought in by outside producers and renting it out for corporate events and film production, according to Mark Holden, the center’s chief operating officer.

The Vancouver City Council rejected a $7.69 million bid in October by the Law brothers to acquire a nearby vacant lot for an arts-oriented development. The lot was later sold for $10 million for condominiums, a move Dennis Law described at the time as “nuts.”

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