LN To Operate Jackie Gleason Theatre

Live Nation emerged as the winner in the three-way horse race to operate the historic Jackie Gleason Theater, as city commissioners voted 6-1 October 18th to negotiate an agreement with the nation’s largest promoter to operate the 2,700-seat venue.

“We are thrilled to have been awarded this opportunity by the City of Miami Beach and are looking forward to bringing world class talent to one of the country’s most treasured venues,” Live Nation global venues president/CEO Bruce Eskowitz told Pollstar.

The company has promised to spend $3.5 million to transform the Gleason Theater, which was the home of “The Jackie Gleason Show” during the 1960s and early ’70s, into a concert venue with a focus on rock and Latin pop, according to the Miami Herald.

Live Nation has also proposed a new mouthful of a moniker for the building: The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Incredible Jackie Gleason Theater. City commissioners have indicated they might still want to negotiate the name.

The promoter has reportedly offered $1 million annual rent for 15 years, with modest annual increases, according to the paper.

The vote was taken amid a burst of last-minute drama, as officials hinted that the vote might be delayed and the city’s mayor issued his own 37-page report on the process the day of the hearing. Word of a possible delay apparently prompted Cirque du Soleil to scratch itself from the running after 18 months of talks, leaving AEG Live and Live Nation as the last two competitors standing.

“We do not want to be involved in a political battle,” Cirque President Daniel Lamarre said at a South Beach press conference reported by the Miami Herald.

Lamarre later blamed not only an anticipated postponement but what he sensed was a softening of support for Cirque’s proposal, which included a $100 million revamping of the Gleason to become its only permanent theatre outside of Las Vegas and Orlando.

“What was happening in the last few days [was] totally contradictory to what we were told,” Lamarre told the Herald. “We have been told we were desired by the city.”

Cirque’s decision also came after mayor Jorge Gonzalez issued a report that suggested Live Nation would be a better choice than AEG Live if commissioners preferred the theatre offer a variety of entertainment options rather than a year-round Cirque show.

A spokesman for AEG Live was unavailable at press time.

The process has recently become fraught with controversy, with AEG Live complaining October 16th that the time frame for considering bids was “oddly short,” and conflicting with the Jewish Sukklot holiday “observed by many in Miami Beach,” according to the Herald. The release, reportedly approved by an AEG executive, urged residents to attend a hearing the same day.

In addition, residents and members of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce expressed concern that the city scheduled a vote on the proposals just five days after mading them public.

Live Nation and AEG Live both filed their proposals September 29th and the city made them public October 12th. Gonzalez has defended the time frame as necessary to give both latecomers time to negotiate.

– Deborah Speer