Broadway 4D Project Back on Track; Times Square Theatre To Be Rescued!

News   Broadway 4D Project Back on Track; Times Square Theatre To Be Rescued!
 
The "Broadway 4D" project in the heart of Times Square — which plans to immerse theatregoers in a film experience that celebrates the history of Broadway musicals — is back on track, according to the project's new backers, after a year of financial limbo.

The entertainment center would be housed in the renovated 1920-vintage Times Square Theatre, the last of the dormant legitimate theatres between Seventh and Eighth Avenues on West 42nd Street in the Broadway theatre district.

Originally announced in early 2012, the project stalled in May 2014 due to financial troubles following renovations that came to an estimated $30 million. The Times Square Theatre was gutted in the mid 2000s when owners planned to remodel it as a merchandise mart. That project was abandoned when the economy went into recession in 2008. Restoring the old theatre, located between the Lyric Theatre and the American Airlines Theatre on the north side of 42nd Street, proved to be extra costly as a result. It was rumored in spring 2014 that the Broadway 4D project was to be scrapped owing to the costs, but on May 28, 2014, a spokesperson for the project told Playbill.com that "the rumor is inaccurate." Rehearsals for the project were canceled and the project went on the shelf.

The facade of the Times Square Theatre in the 1920s.
The facade of the Times Square Theatre in the 1920s.

Playbill.com received an announcement Aug. 18, 2015, that a new team of "veteran Hollywood producers-entrepreneurs" Elie Samaha and Donald Kushner had formed 1991 Broadway Theatre Group, LLC, which is purchasing all of the assets of the original entity from the originators of the project, Broadway producer Gary Goddard, entertainment lawyer Robert Kory and Hollywood filmmakers Bryan Singer and Jeff Sagansky.

According to Goddard, "Broadway 4D" is "an immersive attraction that merges 3D and 4D technologies with filmed live performances, creating a theatrical experience that is both a tribute to and a celebration of the most beloved and classic songs from the musical theatre canon. Performed by the greatest stars of stage, screen, and recording, with choreography and design by many of Broadway’s most gifted talents, the show will be a spectacular production, uniquely 'Broadway' in every sense."

The originally-announced writing and directing team remains in place for "Broadway 4D."" Separately a musical-based feature film that takes place in and around Broadway will be produced by 1991 Broadway Theatre Group, LLC with Paul Becker serving as writer-director and Rory Owen Delaney as co-writer.

The announcement says that Samaha and Kushner plan to sign a long-term lease for the Times Square Theatre, where, once completed this fall, the Broadway 4D musical theatre experience and the new musical film from Becker/Delaney will be showcased. No specific opening dates were announced.

Samaha and Kushner are responsible for reanimating the landmark Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, converting it into the world’s biggest IMAX Theatre.

The Times Square Theatre was built by brothers Edgar and Arch Selwyn, major developers of playhouses on 42nd Street a century ago. Among classic hits that played there in its heyday: The Front Page in 1928, the Gershwins' Strike Up the Band in 1930 and Noel Coward's Private Lives in 1931. The Times Square was used as a legitimate theatre for the last time in 1933 and spent six years as a movie house before the stage area was remodeled as retail space. It remained that way for the next 65 years or so before the retail space was closed off in the late 1990s. It has sat there empty ever since, its colonnaded facade covered by huge fabric posters for much of the 21st century so far.

Most of the 42nd Street theatres have their front doors on 42nd Street itself, but their auditoriums actually stand on the 43rd Street side of the block. The Times Square Theatre is one of the few that actually has its seating and stage on the 42nd Street side.

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Back in May 2014 Playbill.com obtained an email sent to artists from the producers of Broadway 4D, which stated that although they understand if artists "pursue other offers at this time…we are not throwing in the towel yet." The email said that 4D has encountered "obvious setbacks," but everyone would be updated on its progress. 

It was reported that singers such as Christina Aguilera and Hugh Jackman would lay down vocals for the immersive musical experience, and several artists — including Jackman, Matthew Morrison, Betty Buckley, Sierra Boggess and Georgia Stitt — have tweeted that they have ties to Broadway 4D. There was no word this week on whether they would be involved with the revived project..

Click here to read Playbill.com's initial coverage on Broadway 4D, when the project was announced in March of 2012.

Here are tweets from spring 2014 that show how far along the project appeared to be at that time:

 

 

 

 

 

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