Beacon Theatre’s $15M Makeover

In the next six months the interior of New York’s Beacon Theatre will be completely transformed with a $15 million makeover, restoring the venue to the glamour of its 1929 opening. 

Madison Square Garden Entertainment announced the plans September 9 and said in a statement that the 2,894-capacity venue is expected to re-open February 2009.

“The Beacon Theatre is one of New York’s most enduring landmarks and as we stated when we acquired the Beacon in 2006, we are committed to using our resources to ensure that all of our venues offer music fans the highest quality of entertainment in an unparalleled setting,” James Dolan, President and CEO of Cablevision and Madison Square Garden, said in a statement.

“Like our restoration of Radio City Music Hall and our $500 million renovation of Madison Square Garden, our goal with the Beacon is to ensure that the greatest city in the world has the iconic venues it deserves.”

The venue went dark last month and the makeover began with the removal of 2,800 seats.

Along with the restoration of all historic interior public spaces, the backstage and back-of-house areas are also getting a touch-up.

The restoration will be based on extensive historic research including digging through archival photographs and architectural plans and hearing the recollections of former theatre employees.

The original paint, which has since been covered by several coats, has gone through an extensive analysis by restoration researchers, according to the New York Times.

The 1929 sconces and lighting fixtures are being rewired along with the restoration of the network of original ceiling, wall and mural lighting.

Murals depicting caravans and elephants are being restored, as well as sculptures of animals, masks, urns and statues of Greek figures. Walls and ceilings will be restored to their original glazed finish and the original historic seats and custom, patterned carpet will be based on the original designs. 

Additional theatre improvements include the entire stage flooring being replaced along with an upgraded sound system and additional speakers, upgraded concession stands and renovated public restrooms.

The venue was originally designed in 1927 for vaudeville and silent film presentations. It was taken over and remodeled by Warner Bros. in 1929 to accommodate the newfangled talking pictures. In 1979 it was designated a New York landmark and for the past two decades the Beacon has hosted acts from The Rolling Stones to Michael Jackson to Radiohead to Queen. Hillary Clinton held her 60th birthday party there.

The Beacon “has a great vibe, it’s not either a coliseum or a club,” Allman Brothers Band’s Gregg Allman, whose group holds the record with more than 180 performances at the venue since 1989, told the Times. “There’s a connection with the audience, and when they give back, we keep giving.”

Allman said the restoration project is a good thing because previously “you didn’t want the house lights all the way up, given those cobwebs with the big hunks of dust.”