Refurbished L.A. Forum Off to Strong Start in First Year Back in Action

Associated Press

Irving Azoff's pet venue has its Southern California competition paying attention

The refurbished 18,000-seat Los Angeles Forum has yet to celebrate its first full year of operation, but it already is having an impact on Southern California’s live entertainment scene.

Statistics provided by the venue’s operator, Madison Square Garden Entertainment, indicate that the Forum, located in the Inglewood section of Los Angeles, captured 32 percent of the marketplace in 2014 by playing host to 50 concerts, almost double that of Live Nation’s nearby Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre (16,300 seats) in Irvine, which, with 28 shows, scored an 18 percent market share. The Staples Center (21,000 seats) in downtown L.A. held 18 percent of the market with 25 shows, and the Honda Center (19,000 seats) in Anaheim, 15 percent with 23 shows.

Billboard Boxscore results for the period of Nov. 13, 2013 to Nov. 11, 2014 paint a slightly different picture (see box), but not an incongruous one given that the measurement period encompasses two months when the Forum wasn’t yet open. (Its first public show took place on Jan. 15.)

Renovated at a cost of nearly $100 million, the arena is a pet project of powerhouse manager Irving Azoff, 66, and a venture of his AMSGE partnership with Garden executive chairman James Dolan. “Year one was more fun and success than I could have imagined in my wildest expectations,” Azoff says, crediting the venue’s strong start to a team led by longtime associate Dana DuFine, 49, who was named senior vp/head of West Coast operations for MSGE in June. This is DuFine’s first venue management gig, and befitting her previous work in artist management and at labels, including, respectively, Front Line Entertainment and Immortal Records/Virgin EMI, she says, “I treat every show as if it were a record launch.” Among the big sellers were two nights by Tom Petty, who grossed $2.4 million after DuFine persuaded the artist’s manager Tony Dimitriades to add a second show; Paul Simon and Sting ($1.9 million) and Justin Timberlake ($1.5 million). And for 2015, DuFine says 42 shows are already on the books including two-night engagements by 5 Seconds of Summer and Sam Smith and four nights with U2.

The Staples Center, which is owned and operated by Anschutz Entertainment Group, has been the dominant large venue in the market, hosting a record-breaking 53 concerts in 2013. But it’s also the home of four pro sports teams that require more than 100 dates a year. As a pure entertainment venue, the Forum is poised to attract those acts that can’t find availabilities downtown.

Staples Center president Lee Zeidman, 59, says he’s aware of the Forum’s effect on business, but isn’t surprised by it. “In a crowded marketplace, any time another venue [opens], it will have an impact on all venues of similar capacity in that marketplace,” he says, adding, “When properly scaled,” Staples Center “out-grosses other venues in our market.” He adds that management’s ability to “comp the artist hotel rooms right across the street and offer the use of event suites for radio promotions [makes us] a very attractive play.”

This article first appeared in the Dec. 20 issue of Billboard.

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