Mirvish Plans to Buy Toronto's Canon and Panasonic Theatres; Dancap Bristles

News   Mirvish Plans to Buy Toronto's Canon and Panasonic Theatres; Dancap Bristles Toronto producer David Mirvish is adding some real estate to his Ontario theatre empire. The man who already owns and programs the Princess of Wales and the Royal Alexandra Theatre has reached an agreement to purchase the Canon Theatre and the Panasonic Theatre.

He will buy the Toronto venues from Key Brand Entertainment, the parties announced. Mirvish productions have a history in the opulent Canon, first known as the Pantages, where The Phantom of the Opera reigned for many years.

Built in 1920, the Canon has been programmed and operated by Mirvish since Sept. 1, 2001, when he entered into a long-term lease for the building with the landlord SFX (which subsequently became Clear Channel and then Live Nation). The 2,300-seat venue was sold by Live Nation in January 2008 to New York-based Key Brand Entertainment.

Among shows Mirvish produced and presented in the Canon since 2001 are The Producers, Contact, Disney's Aida, The Graduate, Movin' Out, Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays, Monty Python's Spamalot, Wicked and the current production of We Will Rock You (which will move to the Panasonic).

"As part of our lease of the Canon," Mirvish said in a statement, "we have a right of first negotiation for the purchase of the building. As we have had a wonderful experience at this theatre, we are very happy to be able to exercise our right to acquire the building. We look forward to continuing our programming of the best of Broadway, West End and world theatre. In fact, many of the shows in our 2008-09 subscription season will be presented at the Canon."

The Panasonic Theatre, at 651 Yonge Street, opened in June 2005 as a newly constructed 700-seat theatre on the site of the old New Yorker Theatre, a spot that has had a long history of entertainment in Toronto. "The Panasonic will be a welcome addition," Mirvish stated. "Its relatively intimate auditorium will allow us to program shows we wouldn't easily be able to do in our larger venues, giving us more opportunities to transfer local productions from the city's exciting alternative companies and to employ more Canadian artists. Its proximity to the center of the city, Yonge and Bloor, means it is easily accessible by public transit to almost all Torontonians."

Another Toronto presenter, Dancap Productions Inc., takes issue with the agreement between Mirvish and Key Brand and has commenced legal proceedings against both, seeking an injunction to prevent the sale.

The suit alleges that Key Brand has breached its contractual obligations to Dancap, based on an agreement signed last fall between the two companies.

It further alleges that this breach will cause irreparable harm to Dancap (which is just breaking into major presenting in Toronto) and that Mirvish encouraged Key Brand to breach its contract with Dancap.

Last fall, Dancap agreed to join Key Brand Entertainment in its acquisition of the North American theatrical assets of Live Nation, Inc., including venues and properties and Broadway Across America and Broadway Across Canada. The transaction closed in January 2008, at which time, Dancap "gained full authority to autonomously manage Key Brand's Canadian assets, including the Canon and Panasonic Theatres in Toronto, and final right to determine which productions would be shown and when," according to a May 7 statement by Dancap.

John Gore, CEO of Key Brand Entertainment, Inc., responded with this May 7 statement: "We are not surprised that Dancap has taken its fight to the press because its claim is completely without merit. Nothing in Key Brand's agreement with Dancap in any way restricts our ability to sell the Canon and Panasonic Theatres to Mirvish. Moreover, we filed an action weeks ago in the United States District Court for the Central District of California to compel an arbitration to resolve this dispute in accordance with the contract between the parties. We fully expect to prevail in this matter and to be able to proceed with the sale transaction."

Dancap Productions' inaugural series in Toronto this year includes engagements of the tours of the Cameron Mackintosh National Theatre staging of My Fair Lady (May 8-31 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts); Avenue Q (July 29-Aug. 21 at the Elgin); and the Toronto premiere of Jersey Boys (Aug. 21-Oct. 5 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts).

The company will be unveiling its 2009 season May 20.

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