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For sale: 2,901 seats

For sale: 2,901 seats

For sale: 2,901 seats

The ROM, the Four Seasons Centre, the AGO — Toronto is in the midst of bona fide cultural renaissance. But in the middle of it all, a pair of important theatres, the Canon and the Panasonic, have been adorned with For Sale signs.

The Church-Yonge corridor neighbourhood is home to both theatres, which current owner Live Nation Inc. recently listed for sale in a package that includes 11 other theatres, all located in the U.S. The Beverly Hills-based company made the announcement on March 1 as it released its fourth quarter and full year 2006 financial results.

In its statement, Live Nation said this sale is part of its strategy to focus on its core business as a live music company, and the company is also divesting itself of theatrical venues in six other major North American markets: Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.

The announcement has so far barely registered in Toronto. “This is news to me,” said James Robinson, executive director of the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area, which counts the 2,200-seat Canon Theatre among its members. The concern in the neighbourhood is that both theatres continue to draw audiences who spend money outside the theatre.

“The issue of who owns the theatre is not nearly as important as that the theatre is programmed with daily entertainment,” Robinson said. “We just look back to the early ’90s with the Phantomof the Opera that was here. That really got the area through the recession. That kept the hotels and the restaurants in business over that period of time.”

Mirvish Productions holds a long-term management agreement for the Canon Theatre, which will survive any sale, said John Karastamatis, director of communications for Mirvish. He added that the company is operating with the understanding that it’s business as usual.

Mirvish debuted We Will Rock You this past Wednesday at the Canon Theatre. “So far sales have exceeded expectations,” Karastamatis said. “We’re hoping that it will be a big success and that it will run there a long time.”

Menopause Out Loud moves to the 701-seat Panasonic Theatre March 23 from its current home, the Capitol Event Theatre.

Live Nation declined to comment on whether they’ve been approached by buyers looking to dabble in the theatre market. Mirvish Productions also declined to comment on whether it might consider buying the venues, and the Toronto theatre scene’s other big player (and possible suitor), Aubrey Dan of Dancap Productions, couldn’t be reached.

National Post
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Page: TO4
Section: Toronto: The City
Byline: Philip Alves
Column: Neighbourhoods: Downtown