Taking on a new role, the theater temporarily known as Prince reopens

The Prince Music Theater will reopen Friday for the first time since emerging from bankruptcy. The theater on Chestnut Street in Center City Philadelphia has new owners, new management, and a new mission.

Two years ago, the 470-seat Prince was facing an imminent sheriff’s sale. It was in foreclosure, owned by TD Bank, and almost certain to be sold as a retail space.

That’s when Herb Lotman stepped in. While the meat processor from Conshohocken was making a fortune as the inventor of the Chicken McNugget, his wife, Karen, had been on the board of the Prince Theater.

“She really enjoyed the Prince, it was one of the best theaters in town,” said Lotman. “She asked me to go and save the Prince. I said, ‘That place is going to be a shoe store! TD Bank is going to have a sheriff’s sale.’

“I tell you — when the boss tells you to do something, after 56 years, you do something.”

Lotman assembled a team of investors — including his wife — to pull the theater out of bankruptcy, then hired a management team, which has booked 200 performances for the 2013-2014 season, mostly concerts and musical theater.

The Prince had been the home of American Music Theater, a producing company dedicated to commissioning and staging original theater and opera. That will not be the case anymore.

“As far as creating new theater from scratch, that is not currently on our plan, but it’s not off the radar,” said new executive director Jamey Hines, most recently an administrator at the Mann Music Center. “It’s not cost-effective now to get us up and going and establish our new mission: to act as a performing arts center.”

Later this fall, the Prince will no longer be the Prince. Hal Prince, the Broadway producer the theater is named after, has requested his name be removed from the marquee. Lotman is now seeking a buyer for the theater’s naming rights.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal