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Tonys: Access Entertainment Makes Broadway Part of the Portfolio

Variety logo Variety 6/9/2017 Gordon Cox
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Access Entertainment, the banner launched last year by Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, made headturning investments in film and TV right out of the gate. But theater is part of the equation too, with Access backing stage productions that have earned some 31 Tony nominations and a Pulitzer Prize.

While Access Entertainment, led by former BBC TV chief Danny Cohen, has acquired a stake in Brett Ratner’s RatPac and founded Benchmark Television (with partners including BBC Worldwide), Blavatnik and Access have also invested in Broadway’s “Hello, Dolly!” (ten Tony Awards nominations), “Groundhog Day” (seven), “A Doll’s House, Part 2” (eight) and “Sweat” (three, plus that Pulitzer Prize), among other titles.

“It’s a mixture of personal taste and backing talented people,” said Cohen of Access’ theater activities. “Theater is a hit business, which is not that different from movies and television. It means you have to invest in quite a wide range of productions in order to have the winners as well as the ones that do less well.”

Cohen added that both he and Blavatnik are theater lovers, and have made it part of the mission to support the arts. There’s also what he referred to as an R&D component in the Broadway strategy.

Some investments strengthen relationships with talent and producers with proven track records, such as Scott Rudin (“Dolly!,” “Doll’s House” and “The Glass Menagerie,” all of which Access invested in) or the Public Theater (“Sweat,” “Hamilton”). Another consideration is a show’s potential synergies with Warner Music Group, also owned by Blavatnik. (Blavatnik’s investment in “Hamilton” helped secure the cast recording for WMG’s Atlantic Records, according to Cohen.)

Access anticipates having a hand in upcoming theater seasons, too. “The commitment is there, and we want to do more,” Cohen said.

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