The former Saville Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue has been sold by Odeon cinemas to Yoo Capital, the developers of the new Olympia Theatre in London.
In March last year the Theatres’ Trust announced that the Grade II listed Saville Theatre had been saved from redevelopment. Part of their justification for maintaining the building as an entertainment venue was that there is need and demand for additional large-scale theatre space within the West End, for which the Saville provides the last realistic opportunity to deliver due to its size, internal volume, access and its existing cultural use.
John Hitchcox, Chairman of the developers of the project at Yoo Capital, made promising noises in a statement that the venue could become a live entertainment venue again, after being a cinema since 1969. He said: “The last two years have hit the arts and entertainment industries particularly hard, and we are delighted to be investing in The Saville and in the arts once again.”
Lloyd Lee, Yoo capital managing partner said: “We are excited to acquire one of London’s true hidden gems. The Saville has been a very special home of live theatre and entertainment for 90 years. On behalf of the firm and our investors, we consider ourselves privileged to be able to commit our resources to secure its long-term future. We look forward to working with existing stakeholders, the community, arts groups and the London Borough of Camden on our proposals for investment.”
Yoo Capital’s other entertainment venue in London, The Olympia Theatre, is to be managed by Trafalgar Entertainment, the new company of former ATG execsHoward Panter and Rosemary Squire. Their most recent project was refurbishing the Trafalgar Theatre, currently hosting Jersey Boys.
It is unclear if Trafalgar Entertainment will also manage any new venue at the Saville, and whether it may follow a similar development model to Olympia. The 1,575 seat Olympia Theatre is part of the £1.3 billion regeneration of the Olympia area of London byYoo Capital and Deutsche Finance, and will also include Hyatt and citizenM hotels, a 4 screen cinema, a 1,000 seat performing arts space, a new jazz club style restaurant, and eating and retail.
The Saville Theatre was designed by TP Bennett and Son with input from notable theatre architect Bertie Crewe and opened in 1931. The building was originally very opulent, and features a large, 40m frieze that runs across the entire front by Gilbert Bayes, depicting ‘Drama Through the Ages’, and is considered to be one of the most important works of public sculpture of the 1930s.
In the 1960’sBeatles manager Brian Epstein took over the venue and it enjoyed a number of years of success with plays and rock concerts, including performances by the Beatles themselves, Chuck Berry, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Nirvana, The Bee Gees, and The Rolling Stones.
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