Theatrical Syndicate

Definition

Theater

  • An organization of US theatrical managers that held a monopolyon productions in the early 20th century. Formed by a group of businessmenin 1896, it took advantage of the country's new railway system tobook travelling troupes into venues that had once been dominated bylocal stock companies. The association began to exert a strangleholdwhen Charles Frohman arranged a cooperative agreement between thebooking agency of Marc Klaw and Abraham Erlanger and two groups thatcontrolled theaters throughout the east and west. Performers wererequired to sign exclusive contracts that dictated the time and placeof bookings. Within seven years, most of the important productionsin New York and the regions were controlled by the Syndicate.

    This dominance continued for about 16 years and was only brokenby the emergence of a new national monopoly. Performers, such as theUS actress Minnie Fiske and France's Sarah Bernhardt, began to objectto the Syndicate's rough treatment, as did David Belasco,Frohman's former stage manager, who owned his own Broadway theater.This encouraged the Shubert brothers, Sam, Lee, and Jacob,to build up their own chain of theaters, which, by 1913, had twicethe number of the Syndicate. Three years later, the Syndicate disbanded.

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