Phillip J. Smith, Power on Broadway, Is Dead at 89


Philip J., president of the powerful Shubert organization. Smith, whose empire of Broadway theater and showcase productions made him one of New York’s most influential real estate and cultural entrepreneurs, died Friday in a Manhattan hospital. He was 89.

A statement released by Shubert and her daughters, Linda Phillips and Jennifer Stein, stated that the reason for this was the complications of the Kovid-19.

From a baronial suite at Shubert Alle in the center of the theater district, Mr. Smith, a small-businessman who started the movie Usher, has spent more than a decade on an archipelago of the nation’s oldest and largest theatrical company, 17 presided over. Broadway Theater, many of them landmarks; Six stages of Broadway; And other properties including a theater in Philadelphia.

For the rest of his six-decade career, Mr. Smith is president of creative stalwart Gerald Schonfeld and Bernard B. Was president of Jacobs. He was followed for 15 years in the 1970s with hits such as “Pippin,” “Equus” and “A Chorus Line”, 1975 Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musicals.

In those days, Broadway theaters shared Times Square with prostitutes, etymologies and sex shops. But as the crowd came to “Cats” (1981), “The Phantom of the Opera” (1988) and other hit films, the scene became the family-oriented entertainment district it is today. Mr. Schoenfeld and Mr. Jacobs expanded the role of Shubert, as some theater owners had previously done, investing in shows and often producing or producing them.

After 17 years as executive vice president, Mr. Smith became president of Shubert when Mr. Jacobs died in 1996 and Mr. Schoenfeld when its president died in 2008. He also became president of the Shubert Foundation, the largest private funder of nonprofit theater and dance. Companies in America.

Robert E. Wenkel, who succeeded Mr. Smith as chairman, was Shubert’s co-chief executive with Mr. Smith from 2008 to June, when Mr. Smith retired and was named chairman emeritus. At the time, Ms. Wankel was named president and chief executive.

Unlike the showman Mr. Schoenfeld and the more reserved and artistic Mr. Jacobs, Mr. Smith was an expansion-oriented businessman who largely worked behind the scenes during his heyday. After his success, he continued to play Hidden Hands, negotiating booking contracts with theater unions, along with producers and labor contracts.

But like his mentors, he also wielded enormous power over Broadway’s offerings, deciding which music, drama and millions of theater theaters would appear in Shubert theaters each season, deciding their locations, setting ticket prices And determine when each show will close.

Privately held, Shubert does not report finance, but its reach and Mr. Smith’s influence were undoubtedly. As the owner of 40 percent of Broadway’s 41 theaters, the organization shut down the industry for most of last year and in this one before the massive share of its audience and revenue of about $ 1.5 billion.

According to the industry trade group, Shubert contributed a large portion of the $ 12.5 billion that Broadway generated to the city’s economy, including annual production costs, ticket prices, tourism and ancillary expenses.

Mr. Smith joined Shubert in 1957, and 60 years later he recalled his first day as a 1,400-seater concert venue on West 45th Street, the box-office manager of the Imperial Theater.

“Frank Loser’s hit, ‘The Happy Hella,’ was playing,” he said in an interview for Obesity in 2017. The show was about the May-December romance. It was nearing the end of its run, and by the time ‘Jamaica’, along with Lina Horn, was replaced, I was moved to the Majestic Theater’s box office. Ethel Merman was playing there in ‘Happy Hunting’.

Through the ranks of general manager of all auspicious theaters in 1970, Mr. Smith created a midsizer name by devising new ways to sell tickets for Broadway shows. With American Express, he began using credit cards for ticket sales in 1971. He was then instrumental in helping former actress, Ana Crouse, set up the TKTS booth in Duffy Square in 1973. (He died in 2014.)

Victoria Bailey, executive director of the Theater Development Fund, recalled in 2013: “Phil Smith was from day one, working with Mayor Lindsay and the Department of Parks, the construction trailer that became the first TKTS booth, with four ticket windows. Completed with. It only seems that 57.5 million admissions later, as we prepare to celebrate the 40th anniversary of TKTS, we tip our hat and thank one of its biggest boosters . “

Named Executive Vice President of Shubert in 1979, Mr. Smith became the architect of the organization’s computerized ticketing and seating arrangement, which was made available to all Broadway theaters. In the 1980s, along with Mr. Wenkel, he helped found Telecharged, Shubhart’s national ticketing service, which began with phone sales and later incorporated internet sales.

“Prior to the telecharge, all tickets were via mail order or sale at the box office,” Mr Smith said. “We started six or eight phones in each theater with our own telephone system. People called directly to the theater for tickets. It was a strange system. “

Mr. Smith was an acquaintance on Broadway. “They attend every opening night for almost 60 years,” Mr. Wankel said. “He mingled with First Nighters and attended parties at Sardi and other places. He knew everyone in the theater, and everyone knew him. “

Philip John Smith was born in Brooklyn on July 29, 1931, the eldest of four sons of Philip and Mary (Kilkoyne) Smith, a Catholic and Catholic immigrant. His father was a stove mechanic at Brooklyn Union Gas. Philip and his brothers, Patrick, Thomas and Joseph, attended St. Ambrose School in Brooklyn. (It closed in the 1970s.)

Philip dropped out of Bishop Laughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn in his senior year to work as a senior. It was a war that led to that first job.

“One day, a friend and I went to the RKO Orpheum Theater after school and saw a movie,” he told Playbill in 2005. “There was a fight in the balcony and a usher was beaten up. I told my friend, ‘I’m sure it won’t be tomorrow.’ I went to the manager of the theater and asked if he had any unusable jobs available. He said, ‘Smiley, go down and put on your uniform.’ I took work, and I never looked back. “

He later became the manager of RKO Palace (now Palace) in Times Square, a 1,740-seater former vaudeville flagship that continued to book live entertainment.

“Eight months after starting at the Palace, I was asked to take Judy Garland and her husband, Sid Luft, on a tour of the theater,” he said. “This led to Judy’s record-breaking engagement in 1951. I remember when she first brought Liza” – her daughter – “to the stage to perform with her. After Judy, a whole series of stars arrived – Danny Kei, daughter Hutton, Libres, Jerry Lewis. “

At a night party in 1957, Mr. Smith met Irving Morrison, a Shubert executive who hired him for the Imperial Box Office. His career was launched.

She married Phyllis Campbell, a dancer in 1960, and they had daughters Linda and Jennifer. His first wife died in 1994. A second marriage to Tricia Walsh in 1999 ended in divorce in 2008. Complete details of the survivors were not immediately available.

Mr. Smith, who lives in Manhattan, was the vice president of the Actors Fund and a trustee of Broadway Cars / Equity Fights AIDS. In 2011, he received the Tony Award for lifetime achievement. In 2015, he was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame and named Living Landmark by the New York Landmark Conservancy.

Alex Traub contributed reporting.

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