N.Y. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex set to close

By | December 8, 2009 at 9:08 PM

NEW YORK – Barely a year after it opened in Soho, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s New York annex is closing. The Cleveland-based parent Hall of Fame confirmed Friday that its New York affiliate, which required a $9 million investment and was part of a broader expansion plan, will shut its doors on Jan. 3.

No explanation was offered in a brief news release issued Thursday by S2BN Entertainment, one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s partners in the venture. But the annex opened last November, as the economic crisis was gaining force, and is situated in a relatively inconspicuous basement space on Mercer Street.

“There’s no doubt the economy factored into our leaving,” Caren Bell, a spokeswoman for S2BN Entertainment, said Friday afternoon. “But overall, we had a good year. We’re moving on to the next phase and exploring opportunities to tour the exhibition.”

The museum has three partners in the annex, and under the terms of their agreement, the partners were to finance and operate the project, with Cleveland retaining oversight of all aspects of the operation. In addition to S2BN Entertainment, which is led by Michael Cohl, a former chairman of the Live Nation concert promotion and management group, the other participants are Jam Exhibition and Running Subway, which have produced musical theater and multimedia concert programs.

In contrast to the Hall of Fame in Cleveland, which offers a general history of rock, the annex had a particular focus on New York’s role in the development of rock culture. Correspondence between Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, memorabilia from the punk mecca CBGB club, and the oversized suit David Byrne wore in the Talking Heads film “Stop Making Sense” are among the items that have been on display.

The annex opened with a special show devoted to the Clash and most recently has had a special presentation called “John Lennon: The New York City Years.” Initial projections talked of the annex drawing a half-million visitors a year, but Ms. Bell declined to provide figures on attendance or revenue. “We don’t do that,” she said.

When the annex opened, admission was $26, compared to $22 at the main museum in Cleveland. Visitors typically spend four or five hours looking at the exhibits there, whereas the estimate on the time required for a visit to the annex, even with its high-tech features and club ambience, was less than two hours.

“In New York, you have to prove yourself, whether you’re a sports team or a museum,” Joel Peresman, president of the Hall of Fame Foundation, said last November, just before the annex opened. “We have an important story to tell. And you have to have something interesting and compelling; otherwise, New Yorkers are going to blow it off.”

Music fans that want a final look at the annex before it shuts it doors Jan. 3 can visit the Mercer Street location weeknights until 8 p.m. and until 9 p.m. on weekends.

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