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Exclusive: Barclays Inks Booking Deal at Brooklyn’s Paramount

Barclays Center affiliate Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment has formed an alliance with Long Island University, in which BS&E will bring entertainment back to the historic Brooklyn Paramount Theatre.

Barclays Center affiliate Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment has formed an alliance with Long Island University, in which BS&E will bring entertainment back to the historic Brooklyn Paramount Theatre.
“This collaboration will bring the LIU Brooklyn Paramount Theatre back to life,” says LIU president Kimberly R. Cline, “creating endless opportunities for LIU and our neighbors.”
Adds Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark, “We felt that this would be the next step in the evolution of our partnership with LIU, that we should work collaboratively and start bringing some great content there, not only for the student body, but also for the public.”
The move will resurrect the 1,500-capacity venue, which opened in 1928, as an active entertainment venue for the first time in more than half a century, with the BS&E team focusing on booking emerging talent in a variety of areas, including music, comedy, and boxing. Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark tells Billboard that the Paramount represents an opportunity in the growing BS&E portfolio, and will begin hosting shows as soon as this quarter.
The Paramount deal is the latest move by this increasingly aggressive group, led by Yormark, which opened the $1 billion, 19,000-capacity Barclays Center in September of 2012 as the home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. By the end of 2013, Barclays Center was the third highest-grossing arena in the world for concerts and events, reporting $83.5 million to Billboard Boxscore. Post-honeymoon period, Barclays Center has remained among the busiest arenas in the world, reporting $60 million in concerts and events for the same period this year. Bruce Ratner is majority owner of Barclays Center and executive chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies, one of the partners that won the bid to redevelop the Nassau Coliseum, a $250 million project that will begin when the NHL’s Islanders leave Nassau for Brooklyn following the current hockey season.


Paramount Theatre

“As we diversify into an entertainment company — Barclays Center being the first step, we’ve got Nassau, and other announcements coming — being in the venue space is important to us,” Yormark tells Billboard, “as is identifying complimentary spaces. What’s going on in Brooklyn is incredible, a downtown entertainment district with restaurants and smaller theaters.”
The Brooklyn Paramount has a strong live music pedigree. Originally built as a movie palace, the venue was the site of renowned jazz shows of the 1930s and ’40s, hosting such artists as Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald. Pioneering DJ Alan Freed, and later TV personality Clay Cole, staged a number of rock ‘n roll shows there, including Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Bobby Vinton, Brenda Lee, and Jackie Wilson. LIU purchased the facility in 1960 for basketball, which it used until the school opened a new gym in 2005, leaving the Paramount mostly dark.
Now the Paramount will be resurrected just as Brooklyn continues to heat up as a separate and distinct concert market from Manhattan. The deal was only signed last week, and Yormark says the Paramount will be hosting shows “soon.” While he declined to confirm capital investment by BS&E in the Paramount, given the team’s recent history it is highly likely that, if the venue is a hit with fans, agents, and artists, a significant renovation project would be in the works.
As it is, Yormark says the venue is ready to host a show right now, and next month, the theater will play a role in the NBA All-Star weekend as the host of the debut of the NBA House presented by BBVA Compass. “The NBA is going to help bring back the name recognition of the Paramount in Brooklyn, and on the heels of that we’ll continue to look for programming.”
Yormark adds “socialization” tours of the room with music industry execs have been promising, and that the Paramount will be an open shop in terms of promoters. “We’ll obviously work with all of our promoters,” he says, “but, no different than at Barclays Center, if there is an opportunity for us to go out there and be a promoter, we will. We’ve had some great success at Barclays Center and if the situation presents itself I’m sure we’ll do the same over there.”
Brooklyn is already a competitive music market, beyond a wealth of Manhattan venues vying for talent and fans. The 3,000-seat Kings Theater will re-open Feb. 3 with Diana Ross after a $94 million renovation; Brooklyn Academy of Music spaces range from 350 to 2,100; Brooklyn Bowl cap is 600; and Barclays Center has its own theater configuration currently capped at 7,000.
Yormark sees the Paramount as a potential “runway” for acts aspiring to play Barclays Center, as well as an opportunity to build relationships with developing acts in boxing, comedy and music through the traditional concert business model of climbing the venue ladder from small rooms to arenas. “If Barclays is going to be this aspirational play — which it is — it’s nice to connect with some of these up-and-comers earlier on, before they can perform at Barclays,” Yormark says, “and we think the Paramount can do that for us. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to bring in big time talent. But it also means it could be a stepping stone to Barclays Center as we identify emerging talent and get them to perform in Brooklyn.”
LIU has a performing arts program, so the Paramount could also provide opportunities for developing executive talent, as well, through mentoring and work study programs. “We believe combining academic instruction with hands-on, experiential learning is vital,” says LIU’s Cline, “and this exciting endeavor will enable our students to gain valuable experience working side-by-side with professionals in the community as the venue evolves.”