"We are on time, on schedule," says Scott Leslie, one of the new owners of the Majestic Theater on King Street in downtown Madison. After closing last spring amidst ongoing late-night disturbances outside what was then called the Club Majestic, the old-school movie-house is reopening at the end of the month as a music venue. Its debut is a Saturday, Sept. 29 show by teen pop star turned adult contemporary singer-songwriter Mandy Moore.
The theater's new identity is already emerging as renovations enter their final stage. The new Majestic is a vast improvement esthetically over its previous incarnation, with a new look that simultaneously harks back to its celluloid past yet distinctly feels like a rock club. Most of the old accoutrements of the nightclub are long gone, as is the old garish purple paintjob and the spongy black flooring.
The Majestic now sports a rich burgundy coat of paint, while the plaster moldings that frame the stage are likewise getting freshly gilt with gold paint. The new flooring is a wood laminate, while the trimming of the railings and bar remains black. Lighting is now provided by a trio of chandeliers and rows of sconces, their brass and frosted glass evocative of the theater's art deco past.
The old catwalk bar above the stage is gone, replaced by a conference room and a pair of dressing rooms, all of which have open air ceilings rising to the wood-beam interior of the Majestic's roof, a quick glance into its past. The old VIP lounge of the nightclub that overlooks the King Street marquee, meanwhile, has been converted into a second bar and chill-out space for patrons looking for a respite from the main room.
What about seating? The leather booths in the balcony remain; the main floor and bar, meanwhile, will feature removable seating on a to-be-determined basis. "We do have chairs that can be brought down so that the entire venue can be seated," says Leslie. "We're able to do whatever is needed." And, as was already the case, the sightlines through most of the venue -- the floor, the balcony, the box seats, and the sundry other perches littering the theater -- are excellent, at least in an empty room.
Pictures of the theater's details are available in the photo gallery at right.
Renovations are set to be complete on Monday, Sept. 24, with the following week devoted to cleaning and making final preps for the opening. Capacity for concerts is 600 people, with a lower limit of 350 set for events requiring seating.
"I would expect our patrons to see a well put together venue, a totally different motif than the Club Majestic," declares Leslie. "They should also expect to hear a great sound."
Fresh paint and new light fixtures aren't the only things happening at the new Majestic. The actual operation of the venue is moving forward too, with the premier role there being filled by Corey Lockett, the bar and security manager.
The owners have fulfilled their hopes to bringa little bit of Austin to Madison in this case, as Lockett has experience as a manager at clubs in Live Music Capital of the World -- both on 6th Street and its Warehouse District -- as well as in Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He is currently assembling the venue's security protocol and its drinks list, which will feature twelve beers on tap. Both he and the co-owners Leslie and Matt Gerding remain busy meeting with Capitol Neighborhoods Inc., looking to assuage downtown residents' concerns about any possibility that the problems plaguing the old club might return.
The owners are also revealing more about their plans online, noting in the venue's FAQ that in addition to live music, the theater may also feature themed parties, comedy, theater, brew-and-view movies, gallery nights, and burlesque, and that the bar will serve pizza by the slice (as is done at the High Noon Saloon). The biggest news, though, is for those underage music fans out there. As asked and answered by the venue:
I'm only 16-20 years old. Can I still come see my favorite band?Tickets for fans of all ages are currently available online, at CONTEXT clothing on King Street, and at its box office come opening day.
Of course you can. Our only age requirement is that you are born. All ages all the time. And if any of you ladies are carrying someone that has yet to be born, they get it free of charge with your ticket. We also proudly serve a wide variety of non-alcoholic beverages for the under 21 crowd.
One of the biggest issues that remains for the new venue is marketing, particularly given a few negative reactions to their first round of acts. Three weeks ago, widely read Madison music blogger Ryan Matteson gave a verdict of "meh" to the slate at that point. "However, as of the time of this report, the Theatre has managed to book eleven acts that neither I nor anybody I know would even consider attending," he wrote. "If these acts represent the future music scene in Madison, I'm moving to Chicago." Then there was the much harsher pontification from Bridget Maniaci, a freelance photographer and WSUM DJ who helped organize the band lineup for the Halloween Freakfest party on State Street in 2006.
Leslie dismisses the criticisms. "One man's coffee is another man's tea," he says. "There are people who are complaining about it, but that doesn't mean other people don't like the line-up. It helps to have an open mind and go beyond what's the hip thing right now. Our calendar is fairly diverse, and is only going to get more diverse.
"We have a lot of talented people coming in, including three members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the first two months, and we are also going to get newer acts, more indie rock, all of that," Leslie continues. "Basically, we want to be as diverse as we possibly can."