BOSTON-- One of Boston’s most treasured cultural institutions, the Wilbur Theatre, is up for sale.
With Boston’s Theater District in the midst of a revival and a flood of new investment pouring into the area, Robert S. Merowitz, managing partner of Tremont Entertainment Enterprises, Inc., who purchased the fabled theater over 20 years ago, feels the time is right to bring in new owners committed to maintaining the historic landmark.
The 1280-seat Wilbur Theatre is being marketed by Grubb & Ellis, a prominent international real estate company. Philip Giunta, Senior Vice President at Grubb & Ellis in Boston, called the Wilbur Theatre the “gem of Boston’s Theater District” and a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for the right investor.
Built in 1914 by the Shubert Brothers who named it for their friend and theater manager, A.L. Wilbur, the Wilbur Theatre has hosted such landmark productions as “Hair” and “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown”, and has propelled the careers of such stars as Faye Dunaway (“Master Class”, 1996), Marlon Brando (“A Streetcar Named Desire”, 1947), Marisa Tomei and Quenton Tarantino (“Wait Until Dark”, 1998), Frederick March and Jason Robards (“A Long Day’s Journey Into the Night”, 1956), Betty Furness (“My Sister Eileen”, 1941) and Katherine Cornell (“Dear Liar”, 1960.)
Other stars who have appeared on the Wilbur Theatre stage include Ethel Barrymore, Fred Astaire, Claire Luce, Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn, Montgomery Clift, Joan Blondell, Karl Malden and Brian Bedford.
Designed by architect Clarence H. Blackall, the Wilbur Theatre was the first Boston theater to draw its inspiration from American Colonial architecture. The Wilbur’s Federal Revival style is characterized by a quiet simplicity and intimate, almost home-like atmosphere. Architectural historian Douglas Tucci described the Wilbur’s auditorium as “the handsomest of any Boston playhouse”.
In 1987, Merowitz and his partners purchased the Wilbur and immediately undertook $500,000 in renovations, including re-rigging the stage, soundproofing the theater, restoring the seats and making the Wilbur handicapped accessible. In 1989, Merowitz’ dedication to the Theater District earned him the Coveted Eliot Norton Award from the Friends of Boston Theater for “restoring to dignity the Grand Old Wilbur” and helping to restore the nearby Colonial Theatre. From 10 years through September 2006, the Wilbur Theatre had been leased to Clear Channel/ Live Nation, and in the fall of 2006, the Wilbur hosted the production of the nationally-acclaimed, “25th Annual Putnam County The Spelling Bee.”
Boston’s Theater District is in the midst of a complete renaissance with the construction of a new W Hotel, the restoration of the Opera House, the revival of the Paramount Theater, and a new residential development atop a Times Square-style billboard.
In the heart of downtown Boston, the Theater District is adjacent to historical landmarks such as Boston Common and scenic Public Garden and just a short walk to Boston’s Financial District, Beacon Hill, water front museums, and area colleges and universities. World-class shopping, restaurants and hotels are abundant.