As Shakespeare lovers jockeyed to score a hot ticket to see the final, sold-out performance of King Lear at the Brooklyn Academy of Music earlier this year, a group of brokers and their clients easily found seats.
That’s because the cast, including the show’s Lear, Sir Ian McKellen, had teamed up with Stribling Marketing Associates to help promote a new condo project called One Hanson Place in the former Williamsburgh Savings Bank.
And just last month, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership released a four-minute video that promotes 56 completed projects in the area, with McKellen narrating.
Sir Ian’s decision to get involved is just the latest example of the role that celebrity power is playing in real estate. Last year, Extell Development Company spent $500,000 on a broker party for the Avery, with Seal performing as the entertainment.
Now, as the market gets more competitive, developers and brokers have been trying different ways to use celebrities — such as McKellen’s two-fer as both building and neighborhood spokesman.
The president and CEO of Prudential Douglas Elliman, Dottie Herman, said associating celebrities with buildings “adds value” and “gives buyers bragging rights.”
At the Atelier, a luxury building developed by the Moinian Group on far West 42nd Street, tabloid sweethearts Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minnillo, who reportedly share an apartment there, appeared at the grand opening in August.
In October, Matthew Broderick appeared at the Plaza’s 100th birthday party, though a spokesman for the Plaza said at the time 90 percent of the units were sold and noted that Broderick was not paid for appearing.
“Celebrities are a great lure, but you need to make sure that you draw the right crowd, the target market, for your building and that the celebrities can use their sphere of influences to steer sales,” says Pamela Liebman, president and CEO of the Corcoran Group.
Liebman said Corcoran is planning a book party for “Inside the Actors Studio” creator James Lipton at 995 Fifth Avenue, The Stanhope, early this month. The event, she said, will “highlight the building” and give exposure to Lipton’s memoir.
One trouble with celebs is that talks don’t always lead to deals. Andy Gerringer, managing director of Prudential Douglas Elliman’s new development marketing group, cited a negotiation with Robert De Niro, which he said fell apart when the two sides couldn’t come to terms.
And while celebrities generate publicity, it’s unclear how much they help sales.
Steve Rutter, managing director at Stribling, the exclusive agent on One Hanson, also said Stribling did not pay McKellen — but did pay for the cast of King Lear’s after-party.
“But,” he said, “it really puts the building on the brokers’ radar screen.”