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'Psych' star James Roday and Matt Shakman buy El Centro Theatre

June 04, 2012|By Jamie Wetherbe
  • "Psych's" James Roday has purchased the historic Hollywood El Centro Theatre.
"Psych's" James Roday has purchased the historic Hollywood… (Katie Falkenberg / For The…)

Here’s something you likely didn’t see coming: James Roday, star of TV’s “Psych,” is now the co-owner of Hollywood’s El Centro Theatre.

Roday, co-artistic director of the Red Dog Squadron theater company, and screen and stage vet Matt Shakman, purchased the historic Hollywood theater last month for $800,000.

“Owning [a theater] was definitely on the bucket list -- I certainly didn’t think it would happen this soon,” Roday told The Times. “But the fact that this opportunity presented itself and made sense, I took it as a sign that this might be the best deal that would come across my plate.”

The new business partners met six seasons ago on the set of the USA crime comedy, which Shakman directs and Roday stars as fake psychic Shawn Spencer.

“We discovered we have a mutual love of theater,” said Shakman, the founder and artistic director of the Black Dahlia Theatre. “We talked about collaborating on projects together -- doing co-productions and that sort of thing -- but it never happened.”

A tip from El Centro’s manager, whom Roday met last year while directing Red Dog’s production “Greedy” at El Centro, prompted the somewhat impulse purchase.

“He sent me an email [in April] that basically said, ‘Dude [the owner] is selling the theater, and I’m a little concerned that this could fall into the hands of someone who doesn’t care if this stays a theater. Would you at all be interested?’” Roday said.

Roday immediately reached out to Shakman, who had been renting the Black Dahlia Theatre on Pico Boulevard for a decade, and six weeks later they closed the deal.

“So it was just about a month of craziness and running around and competing with people who wanted to turn [El Centro] into a tango parlor,” said Shakman.

The theater, which has staged 450 productions since it opened in 1946 with the help of Charlie Chaplin, is currently showing the musical “Hair” through June.

Once the show wraps, the two-stage theater will start a series of yet-to-be-determined renovations and begin Red Dog and Dahlia productions in early 2013.

“We’re going to give the place a makeover,” said Roday. “We don’t want to say too much yet because we have some big ideas, and in case they don’t all happen, we don’t want to create expectations or make promises we can’t make good on.”

With the new Hollywood space, Black Dahlia will leave its current post, a storefront Shakman converted into a theater, that must be converted back into a retail space.

“It’s in the terms of my original lease,” said Shakman. “I’ve been talking to a couple of other companies who are interested in taking over the space and continuing to use it as a theater.

“I would love to see it continue," he said, "but for me, the Dahlia as an institution is more important than that particular space."

RELATED:

Q&A with James Roday

Theater review: 'Forgiveness' at Black Dahlia Theatre

Theater review: 'Hey, Morgan!' at the Black Dahlia Theatre

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