Comedy Club on State owner Gus Paras purchases Orpheum Theatre

The battle for ownership over the Orpheum Theatre between Frank Productions and Gus Paras ended Friday when Paras, who also owns The Comedy Club on State, purchased the historic auditorium.

Paras redeemed the property prior to the sheriff’s sale Nov. 5 by striking a deal with previous Orpheum co-owner Eric Fleming to compensate the Monona State Bank for Fleming’s outstanding building loans as well as drop a separate pending lawsuit Paras held against Fleming.

The theater was temporarily under the bank’s ownership after it foreclosed on the property last year and chose Frank Productions to manage the theater until the sheriff’s sale.

Earlier in October, the city denied Frank Productions’ request to pay fines the previous owners accumulated from building code violations, which would have settled the previous owners’ debts.

Paras was able to incur the costs of those fines as well as purchase Fleming’s $1.7 million half share.

Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said he is “thrilled … the Orpheum is in good hands,” and will remain a “tremendous resource for the campus community.” He noted his excitement in Paras’ plan to revive the Orpheum as the multi-purpose entertainment destination it once was by offering live music, wedding receptions, comedy shows and movie screenings in addition to commissioning previous co-owner Henry Doane to reopen an in-house restaurant and bar.

Frank Productions had been using the theater to present live concerts during its temporary management and was planning to bid on the property Nov. 5 to continue promoting musical productions, according to Frank Productions co-owner Fred Frank. Regardless of the unexpected transfer of ownership, Frank is hopeful about the Orpheum’s future.

“We’re glad to have a local Madisonian purchase the theater,” Frank said. “We’re hoping to continue to have live entertainment in there.”

Frank Productions has performances booked through February, which Paras has offered to accommodate. There is also a possibility Frank Productions and Paras will be able to make arrangements in the future to allow Frank Productions to host shows in the theater, however Frank said his company not yet agreed to a concrete plan about its involvement in the theater beyond February.

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