The shows will go on.
A judge has refused a request by one of the nation’s largest theater owners to block San Francisco productions of “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”
The ruling, issued on Friday in the Court of Chancery in Delaware, pauses, at least for the moment, a bitter dispute between two prominent theater families, the Nederlanders and the Shorensteins, that were once allied and are now at odds.
The two families for decades jointly operated the three big commercial theaters in downtown San Francisco, but have been sparring for several years. Now Carole Shorenstein Hays owns and operates the Curran Theater, while the Nederlanders make the decisions at the Orpheum and Golden Gate theaters (although, complicating matters, Ms. Hays still has a 50 percent ownership stake there as well).
Nederlander San Francisco took legal action against Ms. Hays — not for the first time, but most recently — in September, seeking to block her from staging the two blockbuster shows at the Curran, arguing that doing so would violate an agreement between the families restricting competition.
But the judge, Tamika Montgomery-Reeves, did not agree, noting that the producers of the two shows “openly negotiated with multiple venues, which competed against each other to hold the productions,” and she denied the Nederlanders’ request to block the productions. It was not immediately clear whether the ruling, which came on a motion for a preliminary injunction, could be appealed, or whether the case might now proceed to a full trial.
The ruling was welcomed by Ms. Hays, a prominent theater producer and investor and the heir to a substantial real estate fortune, who said in a statement that she was “obviously gratified by this verdict.”
Stacey Mindich, the lead producer of “Dear Evan Hansen,” declared herself “extremely pleased” and ready to present the musical at the Curran as planned, with a first performance on Wednesday; City Hall in San Francisco is scheduled to be lit up in blue on Thursday to mark the show’s local opening.
Neither an executive at Nederlander San Francisco nor the company’s lawyers immediately responded to requests for comment.
The ruling did offer a look at some details of the Broadway touring business, revealing that Ms. Hays had courted “Dear Evan Hansen” extensively, twice donating money to a nonprofit affiliated with the show; guaranteeing the producers at least $1.3 million in weekly revenue from a run at the Curran; and promising to cover any losses caused by the ongoing legal dispute.
The ruling also reveals that the Ambassador Theater Group, a British company closely affiliated with the lead producer of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” at first sought to take over long-term programming at the Curran even after the run of that show.
Ms. Hays refused, and instead negotiated an agreement that brings the play to San Francisco while leaving her in control of future programming as well as physical alterations to the theater; the ruling says that the intention is to run “Cursed Child” in San Francisco for three years, starting next fall, although the run could be extended.
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