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JAMES M. NEDERLANDER,
1922-2016

James M. Nederlander, patriarch of the theater-producing and concert-promoting Nederlander Organization, died Monday in Southampton, N.Y. He was 94.

Starting with a single Broadway theater in 1964, the Palace, Nederlander built an entertainment company that would have as many as 10 Broadway houses, own and/or operate theaters in London, Southern California (the Pantages in Hollywood and the Grove in Anaheim) and a half-dozen other U.S. cities, and create a concert-promoting firm still active in the West. He was key player in establishing the outdoor amphitheater circuit for concerts across the country in the 1970s.

Nederlander sought out and succeeded with broad, mass appeal musicals such as Annie, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard, the Twyla Tharp-Billy Joel piece Movin’ Out and Wicked. Current smash Hamilton is playing in a Nederlander house, the Rodgers.

Beyond Broadway, Nederlander worked in the concert business developing and promoting shows at venues such as the Garden State Arts Center in New Jersey; Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland, which they started running in 1971 and ushered in its rock offerings; Pacific Amphitheater in Orange County, which they built in 1983; and the Greek Theater in L.A., which blossomed into a premier venue after the company started operating it in 1975.

Nederlander also brought concert-promoting acumen to Broadway, using the theater for concerts for short runs: Shirley Bassey did 12 shows in 1979; Smokey Robinson had a post-Christmas run in 86; and Jerry Garcia’s 1987 stint on the Great White Way was in the Nederlanders’ Lunt-Fontanne Theater.

In Los Angeles, Nederlander joined Pantages owner Pacific Theaters in 1977 to overhaul the building as a live venue, reopening with Bubbling Brown Sugar. In 1999, Nederlander struck a deal with Disney to present an extended run of The Lion King, again renovating the theater for a 2000 reopening.

Nederlander’s son, James L. Nederlander, runs the privately held Nederlander Organization, which continues to promote concerts at multiple venues in California and Austin, Texas. 

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