Concert promoters in tug-of-war over Uptown

posted by uptownjen on April 7, 2008 at 8:05 am

CHICAGO, IL — In Sunday’s Chicago Sun-Times, music writer Jim Derogatis reports on the battle that both Live Nation and local promoter Jam Productions are waging over who gets to develop and open the long-shuttered Uptown Theatre as a live concert venue.

A redeveloped Uptown Theatre is seen by many, including 48th Ward Ald. Mary Ann Smith, as the key that finally could turn Uptown from a “war zone” into a thriving entertainment district — the only one in the city where live music is the main attraction.

Now the theater itself has become what may be the bloodiest battleground yet in Chicago’s long-raging war between two powerful concert promoters: national giant Live Nation and Chicago-based Jam Productions. And the fight is just heating up.

The complete article can be found here.

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Comments (17)

RobertR on April 7, 2008 at 1:32 pm

Maybe one of them will show an interest in the Boyd in Philadelphia.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 7, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Can’t the city force the two parties into a 50-50 partnership?

Broan on April 7, 2008 at 1:47 pm

I hadn’t considered that Jam had an interest in keeping the Uptown tied up before this article. I wonder when we’ll see a sub-1000 seat venue in Uptown (ignoring the Kinetic Playground which is really rather niche)

HowardBHaas on April 7, 2008 at 3:21 pm

One of them (Live Nation) already owns the Boyd Theatre in Philadelphia, inherited from Clear Channel, but doesn’t wish to proceed. Friends of the Boyd are looking for solutions so the Boyd Theatre will be restored and reopened. Good luck to the Uptown.

CSWalczak on April 7, 2008 at 6:51 pm

I suppose this level of interest in the Uptown is, in its way, good news after all the years of aborted efforts to save and preserve it, but I am also somewhat disappointed that its future (if it really has one) probably lies in becoming a so-called “concert venue”. I think about what has happened to the Riviera in Chicago, the Palms-State in Detroit, and the Warfield in San Francisco, and while I am glad they are still around, their architectural integrity has been seriously violated. If it eventually becomes another Fox (Detroit), (which I think is best described as mixed use facility) I say terrific, but if it becomes just another mosh pit, I don’t think much will be gained.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 7, 2008 at 6:56 pm

Has any old movie palace been successfully restored as a cinema? Seems like every one I’ve heard of has become a live stage if it’s brought back at all.

Luis Vazquez
Luis Vazquez on April 7, 2008 at 8:14 pm

Ron..The only theater I can think of off the top of my head is the Castro in San Francisco. I’m sure there are others. But, the reality is that simple economics dictates that concerts and touring Broadway shows make the most economic sense for these theaters to operate. No theater in today’s market where big budget films open on 4000+ screens, there simply is no place for a 1,500 Plus seat single screen movie theater to survive on just films especially in smaller markets. Even in New York, the Ziegfeld (with 1,100 seats) survives because it has a long term low cost lease and has a steady stream of “Premieres” which must add significantly to the bottom line. Without that, not even The Ziegfeld would survive and that’s in the huge market of New York.

I’m happy whenever a palace is restored regardless of what the ultimate function is. Of course, my preference is that it continue to have the ability to show films. If it doesn’t, then the next best use is as a live performance venue; a play, a musical or concert. A church is an almost last resort as it is not as public, but some churches take excellent care of the former palaces. The last resort is a retail space. I believe retail makes the building lose too much of its integrity, but it’s still better than being torn down.

GFeret on April 8, 2008 at 8:56 am

I’ve opened-up and carefully read the full-length Sun-Times article twice yesterday, and I simply cannot fully comprehend all that seems to be going on with the UPTOWN ownership battle. Maybe it’s just me but without a scorecard I can’t tell the players, much less their motivations, apparent or concealed. I defy, no make that challenge, someone with a good grasp to explain it all in plain English!

And I say this in all earnest, because having seen the GRANADA bite the dust I really want the UPTOWN to instead rise again. To overstate the obvious, the magic word is ‘Parking’. If we could just snap our fingers and a large off-street parking expanse suddenly would materialize a ½ blk away, then this great debate I maintain simply would not exist. In the (old) days when neighborhood theatres were common, their viability was sustained by all the locals walking in and the need for parking very rarely entered into the equation. Can’t do that anymore—have to depend on and provide for vehicles of customers. And by the UPTOWN (or the CONGRESS too) parking can be difficult. Mind you my complaint is actually not a personal one, since I also bicycle or use public transit according to the specific situation around town.

uptownjen on April 8, 2008 at 9:17 am

G. Feret, if what is in the plans really happens, parking won’t be as big of a problem…

View link

Broan on April 8, 2008 at 9:27 am

500 spaces isn’t going to go all that far, especially with movies.

GFeret on April 8, 2008 at 9:32 am

uptownjen: well I snapped my figurative fingers and you came up with some parking. Of course the city’s strongly pushing that aspect, but it says ‘500 spaces’? Might need a few more than that, thank you.

Sorry for the somewhat flip attitude—you guys certainly are doing something of a great job. I shall watch carefully, even if I don’t (yet) understand .

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 8, 2008 at 9:33 am

This is a block from an L station. Why do you need any parking at all?

uptownjen on April 8, 2008 at 9:40 am

as far as parking, anything helps…i did say parking wouldn’t be “as big” of a problem. 500 spaces is a great start, since i think the el would be a serious mode of transportation for an uptown crowd.

and, for what it’s worth, obviously neither live nation nor jam seem too concerned about that. surely if they are going to invest the kind of money it will take to reopen the place, they have already thought about the parking issue.

but, who knows?

Broan on April 8, 2008 at 9:41 am

Because not everyone in the concert audience lives along the red line or Lawrence bus, especially when you’re trying to fill 5000 seats, and if you’re running simultaneous shows at the Aragon, Uptown, and Riviera, you’re talking maybe a capacity of 12000 people, which would overtax public transit. It’s also necessary when you’re competing with venues like the Rosemont Theatre and Genessee. They manage to fill up the Riv and Aragon all right, but I think they usually try not to do both at once.

uptownjen on April 8, 2008 at 9:47 am

probably until we know WHO and WHAT they are planning exactly to do with the uptown, these questions will remain unanswered. my guess is if jam gets it, they will not be constantly overlapping with shows at the riv. if live nation gets it, it would probably be more “head-to-head” competition. still, as i said earlier, who knows?

bwchicago, as always, you make some great points. i understand that 500 spaces isn’t much. i didn’t mean to imply that that would solve the parking issue.

Broan on April 8, 2008 at 10:11 am

Every bit helps, but do you happen to know what the net gain in spaces is over the lot that’s on that site now?

bruceanthony on April 9, 2008 at 10:31 am

The restoration of the Uptown is the last piece which will go along way in bringing back the Uptown area. I have stated on the Uptown page a few times that there is a huge demand for midsize concert venues like the Uptown with 4000 seats. Chicago is the third largest city in the country and can support a number of concert venues take a look at LA which recently opened the new Nokia Theatre with 7000 seats in a city that has many concert venues.Parking is an issue in many cities but Chicago is lucky enough to have a great transportation network. The City should due what it can to help the parking situation in the Uptown area. The City of LA built a huge parking structure which is underground in the Hollywood and Highland complex in Hollywood which is a highly congested area.I think the Uptown would have come back sooner if it hadn’t been for all the complicated legal issues regarding this theatre. If the owner of the Detroit Fox was interested in this theatre you know the potential of this theatre. The Fox is one of the highest grossing theatres in the Country sometimes grossing more than Radio City in New York.Chicago has come back as as a City second only to New York with live performance. The run of “Wicked” at the Orinetal in the Loop has run over two years longer than any run outside of New York. The Uptown will be used for concerts and not Broadway is the perfect size venue for many acts who cannot fill up the arenas which is most of the touring acts today. The Uptown is the largest theatre not restored in the Country. It is cheaper to restore the Uptown than building a new theatre of this size. brucec

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