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February 9, 2013

Neighborhood Theatre gets renovations, new management

As the largest and longest running venue in NoDa, the Neighborhood Theatre has been an essential part of the revitalization of the area.

The popular Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte’s North Davidson Arts District is closing for renovations in March and will reopen under new management later this spring.

Primary manager Zach McNabb, who has operated the concert venue with JEM Entertainment for nine years, made the announcement via the venue’s website and Facebook page Saturday.

The new operators are familiar to Charlotte concert goers and to the NoDa neighborhood.

Joe Kuhlmann, who owns The Evening Muse, and Gregg McCraw, who runs MaxxMusic, a promotions company that books concerts at Visulite, Double Door, Blumenthal Arts Center, and Evening Muse, will take over as of March 6.

North Davidson Acquisitions, LLC purchased the theater and the adjoining buildings in 2007 and maintains the rights to the venue’s name.

The Neighborhood Theatre originally opened in 1945 as a movie theater.

As the largest and longest running venue in NoDa, the Neighborhood Theatre has been an essential part of the revitalization of the area.

Although staples like Fat City, which also featured live music, closed, many new restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, including Evening Muse, sprouted up after the 68-year-old Neighborhood Theatre was renovated and reopened as a concert venue during the late 1990s.

When the venue originally opened its primary focus was Americana — acoustic, folk, blues, bluegrass and roots music.

Under JEM Entertainment it expanded its scope to include hip-hop (Jurassic 5, the X-Ecutioners), indie-rock (Built to Spill) and alternative rock (Metric) with a large focus on jam bands and, more recently, electronic dance music. It still maintained a foothold in the country and bluegrass market, and hosted such diverse events as a Latin rock festival and professional wrestling.

The new managers plan to continue to diversify.

“We’re just going to try to put a few new practices in at the theater and create a little more varied culture over there (with) a little broader booking variety so it’s operating truly like a theater — not necessarily musicals or anything, but more varied music productions,” Kuhlmann said.

First up is renovating and updating the facility, which means it will close following JEM’s final show on March 3 — it’s a free concert with jam-rock staples from JEM’s run — and reopen tentatively in April. The cost of renovations has not been released.

Kuhlmann says the new venue will announce its first concerts soon.

For McCraw the move is a bit like coming full circle. He and Kuhlmann met 11 years ago when McCraw was booking acts at Neighborhood Theatre under its previous owners. It was one of the first venues, other than The Double Door, that MaxxMusic was associated with.

McNabb will continue to book concerts as an independent promoter at other venues under the name Zali Presents. He’ll also be promoting shows at The Chop Shop, keeping him close to his NoDa base. The change could be beneficial for all parties with the theater getting a modernized makeover and McNabb continuing to play to his strengths.

“My primary goals with the Chop Shop will be helping them develop their back room with all of the gear from the Neighborhood Theatre plus assisting with bookings at the facility,” McNabb said.

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