Details about plans by Dodger Stage Holding Theatricals, Inc. confirmed July 25 that it will create Off-Broadway theatre venues in midtown Manhattan's Worldwide Plaza, at 50th Street and Eighth Avenue, by 2003.
Dodgers will lease 55,361 square feet of space at Worldwide Plaza, a mixed-use, 50-story office, residential and retail complex located six blocks northwest of Times Square. The beehive of space being filled by the Dodgers used to be subterranean movie theatres.
"The Dodgers will operate in the space formerly occupied by Cineplex Odeon, which will be named Dodger Stages," according to a statement. "The company plans to renovate the space into a small community of theatres housing five performance spaces and one rehearsal space. The new venue's activities are scheduled to begin mid-year 2003."
It is thought the Off-Broadway spaces will offer Dodgers a launchpad for Broadway product, plus will give not-for-profit troupes rental opportunities.
Michael David, a principal with Dodger STAGE Holding said, "The Worldwide Plaza location is perfect for our plans for a range of theatrical activities. In addition to being able to create versatile performance spaces, with practical and comfortable backstage areas, we hope to make Dodger Stages a full service facility that will be a destination in itself for theatre lovers." The Worldwide Plaza retail and office complex is owned and managed by Equity Office Properties Trust.
"We are excited that the Dodgers have chosen Worldwide Plaza for its new venue and look forward to the excitement that the theaters will create for the surrounding area," said Brett Greenberg, director of leasing for Equity Office's New York Region. "We have been involved with a two-year search to locate an operator who would own and operate a first-class entertainment facility that would complement the surrounding office tower and residential neighborhood. The new theatre is a perfect fit for Worldwide Plaza as it will transform the complex into an entertainment destination."
Worldwide Plaza is located in the Midtown West, less than six blocks north of Times Square. Worldwide Plaza is billed as a "city within a city." Designed by David Childs of Skidmore, Owens, & Merrill, it is a 50-story office tower containing approximately 1,600,000 square feet of "Class A" office space, 137,000 square feet of retail space, a public plaza, a health club and a 475-car garage. The multi-use facility is also connected to a residential complex of over 650 condominium units.
Joop van den Ende, the European producer who owns and chairs STAGE Holding, and collaborates with Dodger Theatricals on Broadway shows, told Variety in May that Dodger/STAGE Holding planned to create five Off-Broadway theatres in the underground space that once held the Worldwide Plaza cinemas between 50th and 51st streets between Eighth and Ninth avenues.
The former Loews Cineplex Odeon Theater is located underground at Worldwide Plaza, a massive office-retail complex with a popular outdoor promenade. Dodger is planning two 499-seat theatres, two 400 seat theatres and a fifth with 299-seats. One box office would link the spaces, and a restaurant is part of the plan, the trade paper reported. Exact details for this were not included in the July 25 announcement.
Van den Ende told Variety the spaces would house Dodger product (presumably this would be a launchpad for Broadway shows) and local productions (with tenants presumably being both for-profit and not-for-profit troupes).
No pricetag has been announced. The movie theatre has been shuttered for many months.
Dodger and/or STAGE Holding's current Broadway productions include Urinetown, Into the Woods and 42nd Street. Van den Ende has produced more than 70 productions in Europe.
The New York Post reported Jan. 11, 2002, that Dodger was in talks to take over Worldwide Plaza Cinemas and turn it into a theatre complex, including offices, rehearsal space and commercial, 499-seat Off-Broadway theatre.
Dodger STAGE Holding is a Broadway theatrical producing partnership comprising Michael David, Robin de Levita, Des McAnuff, Rocco Landesman and Edward Strong. The partnership originated at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1978 before migrating to the New York Shakespeare Festival and finally to Off and on Broadway—where it has shared in a host of Tony and Obie Awards. Other Broadway productions include The Music Man, Blast, Footloose, Wrong Mountain, Titanic, High Society, 1776, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum starring Nathan Lane and Whoopi Goldberg, The Who's Tommy, Guys and Dolls, Once Upon a Mattress starring Sarah Jessica Parker, The King and I, Hamlet starring Ralph Fiennes, How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying starring Matthew Broderick, Jelly's Last Jam, The Secret Garden, Into the Woods, Big River, Prelude to a Kiss, Mandy Patinkin: Dress Casual, The Gospel at Colonus and Pump Boys and Dinettes.
Dodger subsidiaries include D•Tours, its touring arm; Dodger Costumes (America's largest theatrical costume company); Dodger Management, Dodger Marketing, and Theater Stuff (theater merchandise). Dodger is a partner in the STAGE Holding group. Assembled and founded by Joop van den Ende, STAGE Holding is an international group of live entertainment companies whose head office is situated on the Museumplein in Amsterdam. Employing more than 2750 people worldwide, STAGE Holding activities range from theatrical productions and operating theatres to special events, ice shows, and concert presentations in Europe, the United States, South America and Great Britain.
— By Kenneth Jones