London

Mackintosh buys Victoria Palace and Ambassador theatres

Victoria Palace theatre
Image caption Victoria Palace Theatre has been showing the Billy Elliot musical

Two West End theatres have been bought by Sir Cameron Mackintosh.

The stage impresario is taking over the Victoria Palace Theatre next month and the Ambassadors Theatre by next year.

The later will be renamed The Sondheim Theatre in honour of the American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim.

The Victoria Palace will have its stage extended and the auditorium and exterior overhauled. The redevelopment will see the theatre closed for about a year from 2016.

He bought the venues from Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen, who has owned the Victoria Palace since 1991 and the Ambassadors since 2007.

The price of the deal has not been disclosed.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Sir Cameron now owns nine West End theatres

It brings the number of theatres owned by Sir Cameron, whose successes include Les Miserables, The Phantom Of The Opera and Mary Poppins, to nine, making him the second largest operator of London venues after the Ambassador Theatre Group, which owns one more.

Box office record

Stomp is currently in production at the Ambassadors Theatre, while Victoria Palace is showing Billy Elliot.

Image copyright Matthew Murphy
Image caption The announcement comes as the new version of Miss Saigon breaks box office records

"What really made the Victoria Palace irresistible to me is that Stephen has imaginatively seized the opportunity arising from the major building development taking place all around the theatre to obtain planning consent to extend the stage and front of house areas," he said.

"This means that the full potential of the theatre can be realised with one of the best stages in the West End, ensuring it will become one of London's most desirable and, thanks to the Victoria Station expansion scheme, strategically sited musical houses."

Mr Sondheim said he was "flattered and thrilled" that the theatre would be named after him.

The announcement comes as Sir Cameron marks his 25th anniversary revival of Miss Saigon, which opened on Wednesday and has already broken box office records for advance bookings.

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