‘Ambitious’ plan to attract ‘bigger shows’ to King’s Theatre

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A “very ambitious” multi-million pound plan to revamp Glasgow’s King’s Theatre is being developed to attract “bigger shows”.

The theatre’s owner Glasgow City Council and Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), which runs the Bath Street venue, are working on a project to upgrade the A-listed building.

A council official said it is required to attract shows “like Hamilton and the Lion King” which “can’t fit in behind the stage at the moment”.

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He told councillors that “a cocktail of funding” will be needed, with contributions from the council, ATG and, possibly, heritage organisations.

A council committee agreed to include an exclusivity agreement in a new short-term lease for the theatre, which first opened in 1904. A longer-term lease renewal is expected once a redevelopment plan has been made.

The exclusivity agreement ensures the council cannot take “any other expressions of interest in managing or running the theatre”.

Glasgow Theatres Ltd, a subsidiary of ATG, has occupied the building since September 2002, having signed a lease and a management agreement.

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The company expressed an interest in extending both agreements for three years pre-pandemic, with the intention of working on “a redevelopment to make significant improvements”, a council official said.

However, he added the pandemic meant “the three year extension was all but lost” so the agreements are being extended for another three years.

A council report stated advances in “theatre design and the trend for shows to require larger and heavier sets, along with the requirement to significantly upgrade the accessibility and internal condition of the theatre” had prompted Glasgow Theatres Ltd to start discussions with the council over “a significant redevelopment of the venue”.

The council official said he believed the exclusivity agreement is “reasonable”, and it is hoped to establish “what the development might look like” over the next three years.

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“It’s very ambitious,” he said. “It’s likely to involve everything behind the stage, to effectively be removed and built bigger, and taller and stronger.

“The shows we want to attract to the King’s Theatre like Hamilton and the Lion King can’t fit in behind the stage at the moment, and that’s the reason why they never appear in Glasgow. There’s an aspiration to bring these bigger shows to the city.

“Once we have agreed what the development might look like, once we’ve agreed it can be fully funded by a cocktail of funding, at that point we will agree a long-term lease with Glasgow Theatres Ltd for a period of probably 50 or 60 years.”

Councillors were told the council, as owner of the building, will “probably require to contribute” and staff are looking at “innovative ways” to do so “without necessarily shovelling huge sums of money into the project”.

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The official said ATG has also “committed some significant level of funding” and it is likely external money “from the likes of Historic Environment Scotland or perhaps the National Lottery Heritage Fund” would be sought.

Cllr Franny Scally, SNP, who chairs the contracts and property committee, which agreed to an exclusivity agreement, said: “With bigger productions coming into the city, it would be great for the citizens of Glasgow.”

The period of exclusivity will run until around January 2028 or “earlier if agreement on the refurbishment and a long-term lease can be reached”.

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