Hollywood by the Board: Royal George for Sale Again

Sources familiar with the effort to transform the Royal George Theatre complex at 1641 N. Halsted into “Hollywood by the Lake” say the investor group has withdrawn its bid to purchase the property. Barry Schain, front man for the group, admitted there was a “snag in the deal,” and Chris Hansen, an asset manager at First National Bank of Chicago, which owns the property with its subsidiary First Chicago Bank of Ravenswood, declined to comment.

One source said the deal soured because the investor consortium had failed to put together a financially viable mix of tenants since signing a letter of intent four months ago to purchase the complex for a price initially believed to be as high as $3.4 million. The investors had sought a theater tenant to occupy the 450-seat theater and had considered a restaurant/sports bar, movie museum, and movie theaters for other parts of the complex.

The apparent collapse of the deal leaves First National back at square one in finding a buyer. The current tenant, theater producer Robert Perkins, who had been trying to renegotiate his lease on the theater space, last winter made an offer to buy the property. First National went with the Hollywood by the Lake bid because it promised a higher return, although hard-nosed business types in the theater industry never believed the consortium could come up with a tenant mix that would justify their reported bid.

Earlier this week Perkins indicated he was still interested in buying the property. Producer Michael Leavitt of Leavitt/Fox Theatricals is also thinking of leasing the space for a production of Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers this fall. Victory Gardens Theater has been mentioned as a bidder, but last week John Walker, the company’s managing director, said their interest had cooled.

Checking in at the Oak Theatre

After two months of booking the Oak Theatre, promoter Brad Altman and Q Promotions are still working to establish the former porno movie house as a viable concert venue. Altman admits concertgoers are not in the habit of venturing west to the corner of Armitage and Western, and the varied attendance figures for the 13 acts presented thus far reflect that fact. “You can advertise all you want,” says Altman, “but the best advertising is word of mouth.” As promised, Altman and Q Promotions have presented a range of acts from Todd Rundgren, one of the Oaks most successful concerts, to Sandra Bernhard, who presided at two sold-out shows. Even so, there are only five firm bookings to come. In addition to familiarizing audiences with the theater, Altman and Q are trying to convince owner Andy Janusz that it is in his best interest to exchange his tavern license for an incidental liquor license. The current license does not allow the theater to sell liquor when the audience includes minors; an incidental license would permit such sales. A source familiar with the situation said it’s tough to book a good mix of viable acts in a theater that excludes potential audience members under 21.

Lower Links: End Near?

Club Lower Links may soon be history. Co-owner and operator Leigh Jones says she is trying to sell the remaining year of her lease on the basement space at 954 W. Newport. “I’m really tired of it,” says Jones. “I work all the time, and it’s hard to make ends meet.” For the last four years Lower Links has been a popular venue for experimental theater, music, poetry readings, and other alternative cultural offerings. Jones says she is talking to one person who is interested in turning the venue into a gay bar but she says, “I’ve got nothing in writing yet.”

Peirce Group: End Here

Kiss good-bye to Gordon Peirce Schmidt’s fledgling dance company the Peirce Group, which is folding after just six performances over three years. Dancer/choreographer Schmidt formed the company after he received critical acclaim for his choreographic work at Ballet Chicago, where he now works as resident choreographer. Schmidt had intended to build a distinctive dance troupe that would incorporate elements of ballet and theater, but according to Ellie Eddy, president of the company’s board of directors, Schmidt’s increased responsibilities with Ballet Chicago made it difficult to grow the Peirce, Group. Schmidt and Ballet Chicago artistic director Dan Duell are cochoreographing Hansel and Gretel, Ballet Chicago’s first full-length ballet.

Guys and Dolls: When Here?

The revival of Guys and Dolls, perhaps the season’s biggest Broadway hit, won’t be seeing Chicago for a while. The national touring production, directed by Jerry Zaks, debuts September 15 in Hartford, Connecticut, but the tour’s first 74 weeks do not include a stop in Chicago.

Scheduling at the Shubert Theatre, where the production is expected to settle in, has been complicated by Garth Drabinsky’s Live Entertainment of Canada, which aims to book the Shubert for six months beginning in mid-1993 for a revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. But Ed Strong, a partner in the New York-based Dodger Productions, which is coproducing the tour with American Theatre Productions, says not to worry: “How could we go on tour and not play the Second City?”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/J. Alexander Newberry.