Paragon Theatre

As The Marquee dies, a new enterprise rises

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The Marquee's last hurrah comes February 7 with a 50-musician recreation of The Band's The Last Waltz concert, and then will be no more. But, fear not! The large north end music hall (2037 Gottingen) has been taken over by partners Craig Mercer, Peter Farmer and Mark Townsend, who will tear down and rebuild walls and otherwise reconstruct most of the building as the Paragon Theatre, which opens for business on April 1.

The Marquee struggled financially in part because it only worked for large weekend shows with audiences of 400-600---it was essentially a dead space from Sunday through Friday morning. The Paragon partners are addressing that shortcoming by opening a coffee shop, cafe and art gallery on the Gottingen Street side, and by installing a stage for smaller shows through the week in a more intimate reconfiguration of what is now the front of the building. Large shows will continue to play the large stage, says Mercer, who has been The Marquee's entertainment director for the past year.

Mercer also plans to avoid a large cost incurred by The Marquee by not renting the lower portion of the space. "We won't have people sneaking in the back door, so we'll be able to reduce our security costs," he says.

Marquee owner Victor Syperek has told local media that he wants to build condos on the site, but Mercer says that plan is at the very least on hold---the Paragon partners hold a five-year lease on the space.

"We're very confident," says Mercer, when asked if he can succeed where Syperek failed.

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