Los Angeles' live theater market, be it historical venues or newly constructed state-of-the-art halls, has never been more lively.

"I think we're beginning to see another round of investment in the entertainment infrastructure with the building of Disney Hall, investment in the Orpheum, the Kodak and now they're building this new space across from Staples," said Aaron Paley of Community Arts Resources, an organization that tracks arts venues by size and amenity. "There's a belief that there's still a market for these larger spaces, because if it works, you can make money."

The reasons behind the renaissance vary from venue to venue.

The owner of the Orpheum Theatre, built in 1926, capitalized on Hollywood's constant need for filming locations. The Nederlander Producing Company of America Inc. was happy to refurbish the 76-year-old Pantages Theater, if it meant Disney would mount "The Lion King" there.

AEG Live LLC chief executive Randy Phillips, whose company books the Staples Center for the Anschutz Co. and promote the Nokia Theatre, says that a change in the music world is having a profound effect on the live entertainment industry. (The List this week ranks local venues and begins on page 43.)

Phillips said that the way music is distributed today on myriad podcasts, via satellite and through individual downloads doesn't create pop supergroups or stars, but does make a greater number of bands relatively popular, and that's crucial to small arenas.

"It's a very few bands that get to arena level," Phillips said. "But there are a lot more bands and entertainers that can do tremendous business in 2,500- to 6,000-seat venues. That's a sweet spot for live entertainment.

"People would rather spend a little more to see an artist in a more comfortable setting than a stadium. And that's really why you're seeing this propagation of these venues," said Phillips. "We're very opportunistic."

AEG has enjoyed success with musical acts at the 20,000-seat Staples Center which also is home to pro basketball's Lakers and pro hockey's Kings and the company is expanding its downtown footprint with the soon-to-be-completed Nokia Theater, a 7,000-seat venue downtown across from Staples set to open next summer. The plan is to create a "sports-entertainment district," with the theater providing a smaller concert venue. Anschutz is also banking that it will be the location for awards shows like the Latin Grammys or the ESPY Awards.


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