The Saenger Theatre, Mobile, Ala.
Gulf Coast Promoter Huka Entertainment and facility management firm SMG have entered into a partnership to manage the 86-year-old Saenger Theatre in Mobile, Ala.
It’s the fourth venue in the city for SMG, which also manages the Mobile Civic Center, a city-owned complex with a 10,112-capacity arena, 1,900-seat theater and 28,000-sq.-ft. Expo Hall. The deal to manage the 1,921-seat Saenger Theatre was approved by the City Council in September and has SMG charged with reducing the building’s net operating loss to at least $200,000 — the benchmark figure for the annual deficit at the Saenger.
SMG has until Oct.1, 2014 to reduce the debt, or the city can terminate the agreement with a 30-day notice. They have the same right to kill the deal in 2015 if benchmarks aren’t met. SMG will be paid performance benchmarks for first reducing the debt, and then receive additional money for completely eliminating the debt or even making a profit. The building had been managed on an interim basis by city officials after a nonprofit group called the Center for the Living Arts ended its 12-year-run of the building.
The side deal with Huka has the New Orleans-based promoter on track to book approximately 30 shows at the building in the next 12 months. SMG’s Bob Papke said the Saenger will be an open building, and noted that Huka won’t have an exclusive but will have the option to buy in on co-promotes and route shows through the building.
“In this industry, there are all sorts of ways to get a deal done,” Papke said. “Huka was bidding on the project too and when we looked at it, we saw there were things we both did really well and decided to see what happens if we work together.”
For Huka, the theater fits nicely with its growing portfolio of assets on the Gulf Coast, which includes the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Ala., and the BUKU Music and Art Project in New Orleans.
“The Saenger is a great place for us to develop and build the artists that will one day headline our festivals,” said CEO A.J. Niland. “And we really believe in the area. Our company has strong ties to Mobile, Ala., and we feel it’s a music market that’s currently being underserved.” Huka also books shows at the Alabama Music Box and O’Daly’s Irish Pub in Mobile, and the Varsity Theatre in Baton Rouge, La.
“And we’ve done a number of shows at the Saenger in the past; it’s a venue that serves as a deep part of our roots,” said Niland.
Charlie Brown Christmas will help reopen the building on Dec. 21. Upcoming announced shows include The Machine: A Tribute to Pink Floyd on Jan. 18; Buddy Guy and Jonny Lang on Feb. 18 and Southern Soul Assembly on April 1.