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Historic Orpheum Theatre poised to reopen by end of 2012 (updated)
The Orpheum may reopen by the end of the year.
Credit:Kristian Knutsen

The Orpheum Theatre could reopen by the end of the year. The logjam of lawsuits today gave way under a foreclosure action filed in October, clearing the way for new but temporary management.

Madison's Frank Productions, one of the largest independent concert promoters in the country, will take control of the historic movie palace. For weeks the firm has been negotiating with the property's court-appointed receiver. While ownership of the building is still up in the air, this paves the way for the Orpheum to reopen as soon as Frank Productions receives a liquor license for the venue.

Ald. Mike Verveer expects the city's Alcohol and License Review Committee, on which he sits, to take up the matter Nov. 21.

"It's unfortunate that it took a foreclosure action by Monona State Bank to turn the lights back on," he says. "But at this point, as far as I'm concerned, so be it. Anything we can do to have that be a venue again, and in competent hands, is worth it."

The theater closed in June when the Madison Common Council voted unanimously to deny the Orpheum a new liquor license, on advice from the city attorney.

Larry Frank, CEO of Frank Productions, told Isthmus, "It would be a fun project and very good for the city. We'd be able to bring in artists that Madison hasn't seen before."

It seems like a match made in theater heaven. Frank Productions' founder, Herb Frank, Larry's father, once managed a movie theater much like the Orpheum. It was the Capitol Theater, across the street, before it was made part of the Madison Civic Center, which is now part of Overture Center for the Arts.

This may be the first time that the banker in a melodrama is the hero. "We really think it's a true treasure," says Paul Hoffmann, president of Monona State Bank. "That's why we funded the project, and we're hoping to resolve things and return it to being a productive and really exciting venue."

Besides debt to its other creditors, the theater owes the bank more than $1.1 million and interest of about $200 a day. The building and 19,469-square-foot property are assessed at only $958,700.

[Editor's note: This story was updated at 2:49 p.m. to include the date Frank Productions announced that it will assume control of the Orpheum Theatre. The earlier version of the story reported that the concert-promotion company was in negotiations to take over management of the building.]

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