How does Canadian entrepreneur Garth Drabinsky finance construction of the new Livent theatre in Toronto? Add a dollar to the ticket prices of his successful show, Phantom of the Opera, at Pantages Theatre, next to the proposed site.
Even though Livent made $11.8 million profit last year, and the City of Toronto wanted them to pay the land cost of $6.8 million up front, the deal was made behind closed doors at City Hall in late March.
This is how it looks: Livent pays $2 million (Canadian) up front for the land, and up to ten years to pay off the balance, with interest, with 60 cents of the dollar increase in ticket prices. The balance of 40 cents is for 'Capital Improvements.'
City Counsellor Steve Ellis wants a notation that the surcharge is to pay off a debt to the city, not additional taxation. Counsellor David Hutcheon suggests that with tickets in the range of $53 - $85, most people won't even notice the difference.
Toronto City Council was prompted to work out the deal as a result of deals struck by Livent in New York and Chicago. In NY there is a property tax exemption for the 1,839 seat theatre Livent plan on 42nd. Street. In Chicago, the city is paying more than half the renovation costs of an historic downtown theatre. Less than two months after announcing the $22.5 million refurbishment of two theatres on Broadway and one in Chicago, Drabinsky announced that he will build a new $30 million (Canadian) 1400-seat theatre in Toronto, to open in 1998.
Drabinsky's Livent Ltd. owns theatres in Toronto and Vancouver and produced the successful Toronto and N.Y. productions of Kiss of the Spider Woman and Show Boat. The yet-unnamed theatre will be housed in a new glass and steel, modernist bow-fronted building, to be linked with Livent's Pantages Theatre (now showing The Phantom of the Opera in it's seventh year). Fronting on the northwest corner of Victoria and Shuter Streets, the development will include a two-level retail mall, underground parking for 370 cars, and a foundation for either a hotel or condo site.
The new theatre is part of Livent's overall plan to create a North American theatre circuit that would develop, showcase and tour new works.
In a statement from Livent, Drabinsky said the new theatre would hold an unusual place in this circuit: "The new theatre's dimensions will enable the transfer of large-scale musical productions which continue to run profitably but no longer warrant being housed in theatres with 1,800 to 2,200 seats. For instance, once the theatre is built, The Phantom of the Opera could be moved from the Pantages Theatre to this new venue, thus making it possible economically to lengthen what is already a history-making, record-breaking run."
Livent also owns the Ford Centre in Vancouver and operates the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto. He announces plans to gut and combine the old Lyric and Apollo Theatres on Manhattan's 42nd Street as a single new yet-unnamed 1839-seat theatre. Livent also is spending some $30 million to refurbish the Oriental Theatre, a 2,180-seat former movie palace in Chicago.
The new theatre in Toronto is being designed by Moshe Safdie. His other projects include the Ford Centre in Vancouver, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and also the Habitat structure at Expo '67 in Montreal.
Along with the new Toronto theatre building, improvements will also be made to Pantages backstage area to permit it's use for major ballet and opera productions.
Upcoming new musicals developed by Livent include Hal Prince's revival of Leonard Bernstein's Candide beginning a North American tour in November 1996, and the new musical version of E.L. Doctorow's "Ragtime," which will open at the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts in North York, Ontarioin January 1997.
Also in development: a restored version of the Rodgers & Hart musical "Pal Joey" with a new libretto by Terrence McNally; a new Cy Coleman musical adapted from the 1957 Clifford Odets film "The Sweet Smell of Success"; a new musical, "I Love a Parade," directed by Hal Prince, with libretto by Alfred Uhry ("Driving Miss Daisy") and score by newcomer Jason Robert Brown; and The Gift of Gorgon, an new play by Peter Shaffer, the creator of Amadeus, directed by Sir Peter Hall.