A History of Delfont Mackintosh Theatres
Sir Cameron Mackintosh’s Delfont Mackintosh Theatres Ltd owns (as six freeholds and two long leases) and operates eight of the most prestigious theatres in London’s West End: the Gielgud, Noël Coward, Novello, Prince Edward, Prince of Wales, Sondheim, Victoria Palace and Wyndham’s.
In the autumn of 1990, the then owner of the Prince Edward and Prince of Wales, Lord (Bernard) Delfont, asked Cameron if he might be interested in becoming the owner of two West End theatres. At the time, the theatres were owned by First Leisure Corporation, the hugely successful public company that Bernard had created with the extraordinary property developer and arts champion, Lord (Max) Rayne. Bernard was determined that the theatres would remain in the care of someone who felt as strongly as he did about their future and in February 1991, Cameron agreed to become his partner in a new theatre company.
In July of the same year, Cameron took on the freehold of the Strand Theatre (later renaming it the Novello in recognition of the brilliant actor and composer, Ivor Novello, who lived in the flat above the theatre for 38 years) and, following completion of the sale in November 1991, Bernard and Cameron’s theatre company was renamed Delfont Mackintosh Theatres Ltd (DMT).
Following Bernard’s death in 1994, First Leisure, under the chairmanship of Michael Grade, decided to divest its theatre interests and Cameron secured complete ownership of DMT in 1999. In the same year, Cameron successfully bid for the 150-year leasehold interest in the Shaftesbury Avenue block that incorporated the Gielgud and Queen's Theatres (subsequently renaming the latter the Sondheim in 2019, after his friend and colleague, the incomparable musical theatre composer and lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, on completion of a multi-million pound restoration, re-instating Sprague’s intentions to the 1940 bomb-damaged auditorium and front-of-house areas) and three years later he purchased the freehold from Christ’s Hospital at the suggestion of John Gale. By 2006, following the conclusion of the operating leases held by Really Useful Theatres (now LW Theatres), both the Queen’s and the Gielgud had become fully part of the DMT group.
Also in 1999, freeholders Gascoyne Holdings (part of the Salisbury Family Trust) arranged a new 125-year lease with Cameron for the Albery (now the Noël Coward) and Wyndham's Theatres with DMT taking over the operation of these two theatres from Ambassador Theatre Group (and previously Mayfair Entertainment, the entertainment group of Chesterfield Properties which later became Associated Capital Theatres) in September 2005.
Most recently, in 2014, DMT acquired the Victoria Palace Theatre from Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen. Before its reopening in 2017 with the European premiere of Lin-Manuel Miranda's acclaimed, Pulitzer Prize-winning production, Hamilton, this beautiful Frank Matcham theatre was magnificently restored and enlarged.
Similarly, since 1992, Cameron has commissioned, masterminded and curated a programme of major restoration and refurbishment throughout the portfolio, investing a total of approximately £250 million, and combining beautiful renovation with twenty-first century comfort at all eight theatres. Of particular note, the auditoria and public spaces of four of the theatres (Prince Edward, Prince of Wales, Sondheim and Victoria Palace) have been completely re-constructed, honouring and reinstating the intentions of the original architects as much as possible.
These works, and their ongoing conservation to the highest possible standards, are testament to Cameron’s passion for, and major financial contribution to, the guardianship of his theatres, giving audiences and artists an unparalleled theatrical experience and providing an outstanding legacy for generations of theatregoers to come.