The Wellmont Theater has seen a rise in bookings in the last year, its general manager says.(George Wirt)
The Wellmont Theater in Montclair, N.J., marked its 10th year as a concert venue with an open house Oct. 27. Dubbed OkTENberfest, the event featured food vendors, spirits tastings, more than 40 beers and brews, the debut of new Wellmont merchandise and guided tours of the historic venue.
To commemorate the milestone, the 93-year-old theater, which seats 2,137, announced it would release a portion of tickets for 20 remaining 2018 shows for $10.
“The phones were ringing off the hook when we announced this,” said Carly Wolfson, the Wellmont’s director of artist/customer relations. “People are very interested in what’s going on and getting a deal.”
Despite a rocky beginning that included three owners and a brief shutdown in 2015, the theater has increased and expanded its offerings since its purchase three years ago from the Rosen Group. The owners are Brookfield Asset Management, The Pinnacle Cos. and Greenwood Development. Live Nation Entertainment books the talent on behalf of the Wellmont.
“The last several years, there has been a resurrection to get The Wellmont back to where it was as a live performance venue,” said Anthony Morrison, the venue's general manager. “It’s all about the relationships and making sure artists and their fans have a great experience.”
The numbers reveal the theater has been on an upward trajectory in terms of show counts, which were 80-plus in 2018 versus 60 last year, Morrison said.
“We’re looking to expand our reach to nearby communities and focus on fan experience, those are the main goals,” said Wolfson. “We’re in an arts driven community, and although people close to the theater know it’s here, we can do more to expand our reach.”
In addition, more focus has been on diversifying programming, mixing in a variety of music genres, such as hip hop, rock and country as well as comediennes and family shows. Recent sellouts included The Wiggles, Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert.
Other 2018 performances included Buddy Guy, the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Melissa Ethridge, George Lopez, Fozzy and Chris D’Elia.
According to Wolfson, plans are in the works for a VIP program in 2019 that would include different upgrades, such as a meet-and-greet with artists and restaurant reservations.
“We’re getting good looks with agents, and the calendar looks good, as we’re running the gamut of programming and trending upwards,” said Morrison. “We’re getting better at what we do and getting recognitions.”
The development by Brookfield Asset Management, The Pinnacle Cos. and Ironstate Development around the venue, Seymour Street Development, is bringing added attention to The Wellmont Theater and the area, which is about 45 minutes northwest of New York City. This consists of residential, commercial and retail space, in addition to a 15,000-square-foot plaza and two parking garages. The project is about two years from completion.
During construction, the theater is providing free parking at another lot it owns two blocks east.
“With the new parking, we’ll have a deck connected to the theater so bands can load in much easier,” said Wolfson. “We’ll also have a small stage on the plaza for outdoor performances.”
A number of improvements have been made to The Wellmont in the last 10 years, with more modifications planned over the next 18 months.
“We’re waiting to finalize these plans, but the changes will coincide with the completion of the development,” said Morrison. “People are excited when they see our calendar. Our social engagement is up as well as website traffic. We want to make the theater a destination.”