Real estate and Broadway shows rarely intersect, especially in the realm of musicals, except for “West Side Story”
and “Rent,” which captured the place and time of their respective neighborhoods.
Attempting to attain a similar achievement, the new musical “In the Heights” chronicles the experiences of residents in an Upper Manhattan enclave and is funded in part by developer Peter Fine. The play, which opened on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in March, is booked through September, said show spokesperson Wayne Wolfe.
A recurring real estate-related theme is the gentrification of Washington Heights and the changes it brings to a neighborhood heavily influenced by immigrants from the Dominican Republic, said Fine, president and co-founder of Atlantic Development Group, one of the play’s co-producers.
His lofty title is largely due to his financial contribution,
he said, though he did sit in on read-throughs with the cast. “There are working producers, and there are investing producers. I didn’t work on it day to day, but I had a lot of input on some of the marketing and the direction of the play,” he said.
Fine’s involvement grew from his friendship with the play’s star and creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Fine had met Lin’s father, Luis Miranda, a political consultant, through his endeavors in the affordable housing market. After he saw the play’s Off-Broadway guise, Fine agreed to help bring it to the Great White Way.
“Three main producers brought it to Off-Broadway, and then they approached Peter and the other producers,” said Wolfe. The play cost $10 million to produce.
“That’s about average for something that’s a big show, but not a spectacle,” he said. By comparison, “Young Frankenstein” staged for $20 million; “The Little Mermaid,” $18 million.
Though Fine started out specializing in affordable housing, he has branched into more complex developments. His signature project, Boricua Village, underway at 161st Street and Third Avenue in the Bronx, has a Latin theme and will include a million square feet of retail, mixed residential and the new home of Boricua College.
So far, tickets to “In the Heights” are selling briskly, but Fine found that investing in Broadway carries more risk and unknowns than real estate. Still, it offers a great diversion from construction costs and project management.
“I was really the only person involved who is not a theater professional, yet I enjoyed going to the early read-throughs, when the cast would sit around the table and deliver lines and sing,” he said. “Their talent blew me away.”
Fine is pursuing other projects to finance, including plays and movies. He said, “I’d like to do this again, because it was such a great experience. To me, this was an investment based on my emotional reaction to the play more than anything, and I just got lucky. Not only can we tell a great story, but we’ll also make a lot of money.”