The Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) and a team comprised of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, James L. Nederlander, and Jeffrey Seller announced on Tuesday, January 8th that they are saving the Drama Book Shop. The legendary independent bookstore, which has one of the largest selections of plays in the country, was being forced from its longtime midtown Manhattan home by a nearly 50% rent increase. Rent hikes don't just affect residential properties.
The storefront book shop and theatre venue will be closing its doors on January 20th at its West 40th Street location, which has been the book shop's home since 2001. With the guidance of Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin, and investment and management from Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Jeffrey Seller, and theatre impresario James L. Nederlander, the Drama Book Shop is expected to reopen in the fall of 2019 at a new location in the theater district.
"The Drama Book Shop is beloved by New York City's theatre community, and we simply could not stand by and watch a uniquely New York independent bookstore disappear," said Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin. "We are delighted to be playing a part in assuring this vital cultural resource can remain in midtown, for New Yorkers and tourists from all over the world to enjoy, and we know it will be in extremely capable hands."
"My first experiences directing in New York City were at the Arthur Seelen Theater in the basement of the Drama Book Shop," said Thomas Kail. "Thanks to the generosity of owners Allen Hubby and Rozanne Seelen, I had a small theater company that was in residence there for five years. I was lucky enough to be there the day the shop opened on 40th Street on December 3, 2001, and I am delighted to be part of this group that will ensure the Drama Book Shop lives on."
Commissioner Menin first learned of the book shop's imminent closure in an October New York Times article. Menin reached out to the manager of the book shop to see if there was anything the City could do to help. She was informed that a rent hike from $18,000 to $30,000 was unaffordable, but that longtime friends Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail were also interested in offering help. Kail and Miranda then called Jeffrey Seller to make him a part of the effort to purchase the book shop, and James L. Nederlander, whose father, Jimmy Nederlander, Sr. introduced him to the Book Shop, joined the endeavor. At a November meeting, Seller told Commissioner Menin that his group of investors were looking for a long-term, viable solution.
After a discussion of desired square footage, rent numbers, and suitable neighborhoods, MOME and the buyers toured spaces in the theatre district that could possibly house the book shop for the next 100 years. After many meetings and several site visits, the buyers felt confident in the City's ability to successfully move the Drama Book Shop into a location that fits their needs and signed a letter of agreement to purchase the shop from longtime owner Rozanne Seelen. MOME and the new owners will soon announce the new location and an opening date in 2019.