The Shubert Organization, the company that owns 17 Broadway theaters, has given up efforts to construct a new Broadway venue on West 45th Street, after years of working to add one more house to the theater district.
“It’s not going to happen,” said Robert E. Wankel, the president and co-CEO of the Shubert Org, in a recent interview with Shubert chairman and co-CEO Philip J. Smith. “It got too complicated.”
Broadway real estate is at a premium, making the prospect of a new theater a tantalizing one. With the massive revenue streams of megahits like “The Lion King,” “Wicked” and now “Hamilton” attracting new interest in producing — both from individuals and from movie studios — the crop of projects angling for a midtown theater is at a seemingly unprecedented high. And with big hits running much, much longer than popular shows did in prior decades (see: “The Phantom of the Opera,” “The Lion King,” “Chicago”), houses open up for new shows much less frequently.
But according to Shubert leadership, the complications of building a new theater in a planned residential tower in midtown — between 45th and 46th Streets, beside the Imperial Theater and just east of Eighth Avenue — proved insurmountable. The cost of the theater would easily have hit $150 million or more.
“It was more the complexity of the development, which is in part a cost factor, but it was also just getting too difficult to incorporate the theater into the new building in a way that made it economically feasible,” Wankel said. “It was an opportunity, but we just didn’t think, in the end, it would work, much as we tried.”
Still, with the theater industry as robust as it currently is, Broadway could use another venue — and the Shuberts haven’t ruled out the possibility of trying again in the future. “Oh, sure, we would always consider it,” Wankel said.