Variety reports that the Variety Arts Theatre, the 499-seat theatre at 110 Third Avenue, has closed its doors. Producer Ben Sprecher told the industry paper that his lease on the Off-Broadway space was not renewed and the owner — 110 Third Avenue Corp. — plans to sell the space. "It will no longer be a theatre," said Sprecher.
The Variety Arts' last theatrical production was The Joys of Sex. Other recent productions include Omnium Gatherum, Reefer Madness, Adult Entertainment, Summer of '42 and Necessary Targets. It was the home of one Pulitzer Prize-winner, Dinner with Friends.
A one-time movie theatre, Sprecher opened the Variety Arts as a legitimate theatre with Return to the Forbidden Planet in 1991. The Variety Arts was at the forefront of a 1990s movement that saw the Union Square area become a center of commercial Off-Broadway work. Following its unveiling, the neighborhood greeted the creation of the Century Center for the Arts, on E. 15th Street across from the Vineyard Theatre, and the Daryl Roth Theatre, fashioned out of a former bank that faces the square. The area was already home to the Union Square Theatre, onetime residence of the Roundabout Theatre Company.
The Variety Arts Theatre was built in 1911. It began as as a nickelodeon and later became a first-run movie theatre. When Sprecher took it in hand, it had been shuttered for some time.
Sprecher does have another theatre to showcase his various projects. He owns the Promenade Theatre on New York's Upper West Side and manages the Little Shubert Theatre on West 42nd Street. He is currently involved with Christopher D'Amboise's new play with dance, The Studio. Variety says that Sprecher is producing a workshop of The Studio with Julian Schlossberg, Ira Pittelman, Emanuel Azenberg and the Shubert Organization.