By: Benyamin Davidsons
On Monday, the Cherry Lane Theater, the oldest continuously running Off-Broadway theater in New York City, was sold.
As reported by the NY Times, the theater was sold for $11 million to the Lucille Lortel Theater Foundation. The new owner has already been managing the building for the past 10 years, and is located just a few blocks from the Cherry Lane Theater on Christopher Street. The sale includes the 179-seat main stage and a 60-seat studio theater.
“It has been a great run,” said Angelina Fiordellisi, the executive director of the theater, in a statement. “To stand on the stage where so many of our greatest artists, crews and theater providers have stood is to know what theater history feels like.” Fiordellisi, who has headed the 97-year-old nonprofit theater since 1996, will continue to lead the nonprofit producing group Cherry Lane Alternative. The theater, a Greenwich Village institution, was purchased in 1996 for $1.7 million by Fiordellisi, who also poured in some $3 million in renovations.
Back in 2010, Fiordellisi had announced plans to sell the building, at 38 Commerce Street, noting financial difficulties. She had told the NY Times, then that the theater was operating at a deficit of $250,000, which she ascribed to a sharp decline in income from ticket sales, government and foundation support, as well as rental fees. “It’s frightening to me, what’s happened to Off Broadway theater,” Fiordellisi had said in 2010. “We have to adhere to the formula of having a film star in our productions to sell tickets because it’s so financially prohibitive. I don’t want to do theater like that.”
Eight months later, however, she had turned course, thanks to some improvements in lowering the deficit, a new managing agent and support from the theater’s neighbors. Cherry Lane Alternative, the resident theater company which Fiordellisi created in 1997, now has a deficit of $100,000, theater spokesman, Sam Rudy, told the Times.
Along with the other NYC venues, the theater was shuttered for numerous months due to the pandemic. In June, it finally reopened at full capacity, with a comedy by Jacqueline Novak, entitled “Get on Your Knees,” scheduled to run through July 31.
George Forbes, the Lucille Lortel Theater Foundation’s executive director, said the foundation is working on new programming, which they plan to announce in the near future.