GLASGOW’S iconic Pavilion Theater has excited audiences for decades with posters advertising upcoming shows featuring plays like Mrs Brown’s Boys, Sydney Devine and even The Monkees.
But today, the artwork that has caught the attention of customers of the 118-year-old Grade 1 theater is a ‘For Sale’ ad, our sister title The Herald reports.
And the new £3.9m buyer will feature a 1,400-seat theater refurbished with state-of-the-art equipment, a Louis XV interior with an entertainment heritage that goes back to Harry Lauder and Charlie Chaplin.
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Theater manager Iain Gordon, who has staged, produced and even written plays and musicals for the Renfield Street operation, is preparing to leave after nearly 40 years in service.
One theater expert says the decision to leave the stage on the left was not made by Mr Gordon.
Pavilion owners Tim and ADD Martin have started talks with the Ambassador Theater Group, which currently runs Glasgow’s King’s Theater and Theater Royal.
“This is an astonishing event,” an insider, who did not wish to be named, told our sister headline The Herald. “The mansion was once part of a successful plc that went bankrupt in the 1980s with £30m in debt.
“Iain Gordon came in and revived the theatre, and it became a hugely successful operation, making a profit of about £500,000 a year. The pavilion is assumed to have bank assets of around £3m.”
“The news that it will be sold to its biggest competitors is creating shock waves in Scottish theatre.”
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The Renfield Street theater survived two world wars and the Krankies’ bean-stalk disaster.
It was reborn in the ’80s when ex-employee George Martin took the layoff money and hired Iain Gordon to run the operation.
But there were trials and pains.
The theatre, which began life as a music hall, was flooded in the early 1990s when a water tank exploded.
It has since had to endure a major overhaul as a result of the devastating fire at the nearby Victoria’s nightclub.
And Scotland’s only major unsubsidized commercial theater has had to fight for audiences that are constantly coming up with new streams of comedy.
The mansion was saved from the fire in 2018
But when the theater was going through tough times, actors like hypnotists Robert Halpern and Brendan O’Carroll showed up at just the right times to liven up the building and play to packed audiences.
Along the way, the Pavilion has become synonymous with homegrown comedy such as Des Dillons’ Singing I’m No’ A Billy and James Barclay’s Paras on Barras.
Stars like Ricky Gervais and Billy Connolly have emerged. Wet Wet Wet played the Pavilion in the first phase of their career. Iain Gordon was presented with the opportunity to declare the Pavilion a “Scottish National Diversity Theatre” during comedy nights featuring a range of artists from Jim Davidson to Julian Clary, Singing Kettle to Sydney Devine.
Today, when news broke that the Martin brothers were considering selling the rococo-style theatre, several business groups became interested in buying it. Insiders say that Iain Gordon offered to buy management despite being close to retirement, but this was rejected.
However, the Ambassador Theater Group seems to be leading the way in the takeover bid.
However, theater staff raised questions about a possible monopoly of theater ownership in a city should ATG take control of the Pavilion. However, ATG, England’s largest theater group with more than 40 theaters, does not own King’s Theatre; leased to them by Glasgow City Council and the Theater Royal is owned by Scottish Opera.
Questions about future content and pricing were also raised. “If ATG buys, which will likely try to preserve local content and encourage local writers to produce the kind of content that Pavilion audiences have long experienced?”
An insider added: “What about pricing policy? The Pavilion tends to operate at the budget end of the market. It will be fascinating to see how the Ambassador Group will schedule the shows and what they will charge for them.”
It appears that Iain Gordon will continue to run the Pavilion Theater until the New Year, and panto The Magical Adventures of Aladdin will be his swan.
The Martin brothers were not available for comment.
An ATG spokesperson declined to comment.