Radio City Entertainment, a division of Cablevision Systems Corporation, along with entrepreneur Ted Forstmann, have purchased Broadway's The Scarlet Pimpernel. The unusual move, which suggests Wall Street more than 42nd Street, marks the first time an operating Broadway show has been bought out by a corporation, according to an article in Variety.
Cablevision spokesperson Susan Pelcher told Playbill On-Line the Frank Wildhorn/Nan Knighton musical will continue its Broadway run for the foreseeable future. There are no immediate plans to tape The Scarlet Pimpernel show for cable TV.
Cablevision and Furstmann, one of Pimpernel's producers, bought the musical from its three other original backers Pierre Cossette, Bill Haber, and Kathleen Raitt, and thus control all stage and broadcast rights to the show. Cablevision has, in recent years, expanded its interests in live entertainment. In late 1997, it bought the company that owns Radio City Music Hall. It is also the force behind the annual and lucrative Madison Square Garden productions of A Christmas Carol and The Wizard of Oz, and co-producer of the upcoming Broadway musical Footloose.
"This is part of our commitment to develop and expand the very best in live and televised entertainment, Pelcher said. "Combined with our distribution resources and marketing potential we can work the develop the show."
Cablevision -- which owns interests in the Madison Square Garden Network and Fox Sports New York -- boasts 2.6 million New York area cable customers. Marc Lustgarten, chairman of the board of MSG and vice-chairman and director of Cablevision, suggested that Cablevision customers might be offered "bundled" discount deals for entertainment and live events, and may be able to buy tickets through Cablevision's electronics chain Nobody Beats the Wiz. As for the Broadway production's immediate future, "It will continue it's run," said Pelcher.
The impetus behind the sudden change in ownership is unclear, but one reason could be the show's box-office status. Since opening last November to mixed reviews, the show has struggled to find an audience. Variety reported the show is losing $100,000 per week.
When asked the reasons behind the takeover, Raitt told Playbill On-Line, "Ted Furstmann and [Madison Square Garden CEO and president] David Checketts decided they could take [the show] to the next step."
The new ownership deal is a 50-50 split between Forstmann and Cablevision; Raitt, Cossette and Haber will no longer be involved in the day-to-day operations of Pimpernel.