Trafalgar Entertainment has announced it is to become the new operator of Sydney’s Theatre Royal, marking its first expansion internationally.
The company, which is run by Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire, has agreed a 55-year sublease of the 1,100-seat venue with the New South Wales government.
According to a press statement, the announcement signals "the beginning of a new era for Trafalgar Entertainment in Australia" and the theatre will be the "cornerstone" of the company’s Asia-Pacific operation.
Trafalgar Entertainment also owns London’s Trafalgar Studios, which was recently granted planning permission to merge its two auditoriums into one space.
The Theatre Royal has been dark since 2016, and is set to undergo a refurbishment under the leadership of Trafalgar Entertainment and the New South Wales government with a planned reopening in August 2021.
The redevelopment will include re-seating the auditorium, creating additional bar areas and improving the stage area and back-of-house facilities.
First built in 1827, the venue was demolished in the 1970s and rebuilt nearby as part of business, retail and culture hub the MLC Centre.
In 2015 the Ambassador Theatre Group, which was under the leadership of Squire and Panter at the time, was set to take over the operation of the venue. However the deal with ATG was not concluded.
The New South Wales government subsequently acquired a lease of the theatre from the owner of the building, real estate investment trust Dexus, and ran a tender process for its long term leasing and operation, selecting Trafalgar Entertainment as the successful bidder.
Trafalgar Entertainment plans for the venue to host a "diverse programme of first-class productions", including West End and Broadway musicals and plays as well as Australian work and premieres.
The company also aims for the venue to become a hub for the live-streaming of theatre content and "extensive community and educational engagement" via Trafalgar Entertainment’s subsidiaries: cinema distributor Trafalgar Releasing and training organisation Stagecoach.
The venue’s redevelopment will be led by Trafalgar Entertainment’s executive chairman for Asia Pacific, Tim McFarlane, and the Theatre Royal’s new chief executive Torben Brookman.
Panter and Squire said: “In these difficult times, this is very good news for Sydney, New South Wales and for the future of live entertainment.
"We would like to pay tribute to the farsightedness and confidence of the NSW government. We believe that Trafalgar Entertainment has something special to offer, and look forward to working alongside our new partners in this exciting enterprise."
They added: "Like so many, our industry is enduring highly challenging circumstances as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, looking to the future, we believe that live entertainment and the creative industries will have a crucial part to play in recovery and renewal."
McFarlane and Brookman said: “We look forward to bringing the Theatre Royal back to life and working with our colleagues across the live entertainment industry to host a wide range of first-class Australian and international productions."