U.K.-based Ambassador Theatre Group, which is moving aggressively to expand its theatre-owning operations in North America, has announced that it will operate Boston's Colonial Theatre.
The company bought Broadway’s Lyric Theatre and is renovating the old Hudson Theatre in New York, pursuing its announced goal to expand in the U.S. and throughout the world.
The Colonial‘s owner, Emerson College, had announced plans to convert the 1900-vintage historic building (older than all Broadway houses) at 106 Boylston Street into a student dining hall, but changed its plans in March 2016 after an outcry from the community, including Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim, whose Follies had its world premiere there.
ATG’s CEO Mark Cornell and North American CEO Stephen Lewin announced that they had concluded a 40-year lease agreement with Emerson College, which will include several million dollars in “much-needed capital improvements” and bring “first-class productions back to the historic theater.”
Financial details of the deal were not immediately disclosed.
Emerson College President Lee Pelton, who had originally backed the plan to convert the theatre, issued a statement saying, “This partnership is unprecedented and it will enable us to achieve our long-term commitment to restore, revive, and reanimate the Colonial Theatre. Working with ATG will allow us to bring new productions, new vitality, and new energy to this landmark theater, located in the heart of the Emerson campus.”
Following renovations, the 1,680-seat Colonial is scheduled to reopen in January 2018.
Lewin said, “The Colonial is a high quality, high potential theater. Boston is one of America’s—and the world’s— great cities. We strongly believe in the live theater and live entertainment business in North America, and thank Emerson College for selecting us. We will repay your trust.”
As part of the deal, ATG and Emerson College will jointly establish the Emerson-Colonial Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation to provide “experiential learning and internship opportunities for Emerson students through four annual fellowships. These fellowships will fund student participation in the Edinburgh International Festival, and an Ambassador Award program which will provide an ATG mentorship program for two Emerson students annually. Additionally, ATG will develop a creative theater study initiative for Boston-area youth, and seeks to create a new home for the Boston Lyric Opera.”