Theater fans who worried that The Curran might stop importing interesting Broadway fare from New York due to a court fight can breathe a sigh of relief. Owner Carole Shorenstein Hays and former business partner Robert Nederlander have reached a settlement in which she has ceded all her interest in the company they co-owned, SHN.
In a joint statement Monday, Shorenstein Hays and Nederlander say the settlement is amicable, and it frees both parties to book and operate their respective venues "without restriction." Going forward, Nederlander will have exclusive ownership over the Orpheum and Golden Gate theaters along mid-Market, while Shorenstein Hays will continue owning and operating The Curran on Geary Street.
"We are thrilled to put these legal matters behind us, and continue doing what we do best: provide Bay Area residents and visitors with world class entertainment," say the pair of veteran producers, in the statement.
Nederlander filed suit against Hays in 2018 alleging breach of contract, citing productions of Dear Evan Hansen and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, saying that when Hays took over exclusive ownership of The Curran, she had agreed not to compete with SHN in producing the same sort of popular, national-touring Broadway shows that SHN has been bringing to San Francisco for decades. Hays had a partial stake in SHN — which stands for Shorenstein Hays Nederlander — after she and Nederlander founded the organization in 1977. The pair worked to renovate both the Golden Gate and Orpheum houses, which had formerly been vaudeville and movie theaters, with the latter undergoing a significant, multi-million-dollar renovation in the late 1990s in order to bring the national tour of The Lion King there.
After taking sole control of The Curran in 2014, Shorenstein Hays undertook a complete renovation of that theater for an undisclosed sum, and proceeded to bring to it stellar productions of the Tony-winning Fun Home, Taylor Mac's 24-Decade History of Popular Music, and Steve Martin's musical Bright Star.
The suit, in which Nederlander prevailed in June, accused Shorenstein Hays of causing "irreparable harm" to SHN's business by pursuing the same big shows that it had traditionally courted, including the smash-hit Harry Potter play which opens here in October. The original suit, as the New York Times reported, stated unequivocally, "There is only one opportunity for a theater owner or operator to be the first to stage these sought-after productions in San Francisco."
But apparently this was all moving to a compromise, and that compromise was Shorenstein Hays divesting herself of her financial stake in SHN's theaters.
SHN is now, more that likely, going to want to change its name in the future (though that is not certain), and the management agreement struck between Shorenstein Hays and London-based Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) will only be temporary.
It remains unclear, however, when Shorenstein Hays may next get the chance to import some cutting-edge theater like this year's The Jungle. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has reportedly an indefinite engagement at the theater, and demand to see the show could mean it will be camped out at The Curran for the next year, or two years, or who knows how long.
The current cast of Hamilton, meanwhile, has kept the Orpheum occupied for SHN since February, and will not be closing until January 5.