MassConcerts Buys Webster

The historic Webster Theater in Hartford, Conn., has a new owner. John Peters’ MassConcerts closed a deal March 16 to buy the 1930s-era building and has been booking it since February.

The 1,250-seat Webster operated as a first-run movie theatre for nearly 40 years but by the 1970s was more likely to be showing “Deep Throat” than “The Wizard of Oz.”
The Art Deco theatre had remained in the same family since it was built, and Justine Robertson and her father, Albert Shulman, reopened the Webster in 1996 as a live music hall.

Since then, it has hosted hundreds of concerts including Godsmack, Kid Rock, Jay-Z, Gillian Welch, The Flaming Lips and Queens of the Stone Age.

Shulman died in 2003, and Robertson bought out her siblings to continue running the Webster until its sale to MassConcerts, according to the Hartford Courant.
Peters, who has been been booking shows in New England since 1994, told Pollstar the time was right to expand his business, despite – or more accurately, because of – the current economic climate.

“I look at it as this being a buyers’ market just like in real estate,” Peters told Pollstar. “For companies that are strong and in a good financial position, it’s a good time to expand and grab a larger market share.”

Robertson told the Courant that the disappearance last year of booker Ben Wu, who was assumed to have drowned while visiting the island of Tortola, was a factor in deciding to sell the venue. Terms were not disclosed.

The deal includes Webster Underground, a 250-capacity room that is part of the same building but enables MassConcerts to run two shows at once. And Peters is bullish on business and moving forward.

“We’re offering the live experience, which is still unique,” Peters said. “Kids are spending less money on music, but going out to see a show is still something that’s unique.”