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Uptown in the News  

Posted: June 1, 2007
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The Uptown Theatre
Contact: Chris Jones

Don't get your hopes up, but ...
It has been reported that the local rock-pop-theater conglomerate Jam Productions may acquire the Uptown Theatre through a foreclosure sale. When I ran into Jam partner Arnie Granat in a New York theater a few days ago, he told me he expects the deal will go through, possibly in partnership with the real estate group Joseph Freed and Associates.

But while Jam's involvement is probably a net positive, the Uptown's many supporters shouldn't get their hopes up that Jam's arrival will suddenly herald the long-awaited restoration of the 1925 movie palace located at 4816 N. Broadway.

For one thing, Jam has an obvious defensive position to maintain. Since Jam owns the nearby Riviera Theatre and Aragon Ballroom (among other North Side music venues), it has a vested interest in ensuring a competitive presenter (such as New York-based Madison Square Garden Entertainment) doesn't get the Uptown Theater and set up a rival venue. MSG Entertainment is sniffing around town; it makes sense for Jam to look after its interests and take the Uptown out of play for someone else. And then there's the matter of cost.

A wide variety of restoration costs have been quoted about in the media and they're all guesswork at this point. But Granat told me he estimated the cost of rehabbing the Uptown to be in the $50-$90 million range, which is far higher than many figures you may have read, but credible, given the state of the building. Clearly, Jam isn't going to sink that kind of money into the building. How on earth would such an investment get repaid? You don't have to be a financier to see the impossibility in pure business terms. It will take public money and public vision to get the theater done. A lot of public money. And a radical vision. For sure, Jam won't do it alone. But it's perfectly happy to be the entity holding the old joint and running the old joint if and when any new money starts to flow.

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