New York Post writer Braden Keil reports today (Dec. 2) that the Nederlanders have prevailed in court and are released from contractual commitments with developer Joseph Moinian over the landmark Biltmore Theatre. The Nederlanders can market the theatre as they please, the report said.
The Biltmore Theatre, on West 47th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue, hasn't seen a tenant since 1987's Stardust. In the past, the venue staged such shows as Hair and Barefoot in the Park. Officially granted landmark status in 1978, the Biltmore was due for major renovations. But the expense of bringing the theatre back into use -- and the union costs doing shows there -- convinced the Nederlander Organization to sell the building rather than keep it.
An on-again, off-again sale between the Nederlanders and Moinian has tied up the theatre for the past two years. The Nederlanders found their buyer in 1997 when Joseph Moinian, the sole owner of J General Real Estate in the theatre district, agreed to purchase the Biltmore for $14 million.
But Moinian was said to have stepped back from closing the deal to purchase the Biltmore and five adjacent buildings, instead putting down a $1 million deposit in March 1997 for a proposed 700-plus room hotel equipped for extended business stays. A "restored Biltmore" was part of that deal.
Back then, Moinian told Playbill On-Line that once the Biltmore's roof was properly re-sealed to prevent further fire and weather damage, he would assess the theatre's future. The 900-plus seat venue was built in the '20s. "I am certainly committed to giving the Biltmore a full chance to be used for theatrical purposes," Moinian said in March 1997. "But unfortunately, due to the size of the theatre, it may not make it. In that case, I would still restore it and then use it as a first entrance lobby to our building."
Construction was planned for late 1998 but did not begin. The New York Post article said the Landmarks Preservation Committee opposed some aspects of Moinian's plan.
Later, in April 1999, Moinian was scheduled to meet with the Nederlanders regarding the deal. But Nederlander spokesperson Howard Rubenstein told the New York Times that Moinian never showed up, thus defaulting on his $1 million deposit. As such, the Nederlanders claimed, the Moinian contract was dead and the Biltmore and its surrounding buildings were once again up for sale.
Moinian saw things differently and sued the Nederlanders for improperly terminating their 1997 contract. Moinian's attorney, Menachem J. Kastner (of Fischbein, Badillo, Wagner & Harding), originally told Playbill On-Line his client disputed the impression that the Nederlander-Moinian contract included a "time of the essence clause," and did not discuss specific issues. In recent years, Broadway successes and the redevelopment of Times Square have helped inflate property values in the broad theatre district.
Calls to the Nederlanders and their spokesperson were not returned by press time.
-- By Murdoch McBride, David Lefkowitz and Ellis Nassour