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Silent partner in Remington Theatre buys out co-owner

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by Carol Harris

SBJ Contributing Writer

Once a silent partner as co-owner of Branson's Remington Theatre, businessman John E. Connelly said he's no longer silent nor a partner since he became 100 percent owner of the theater in May. Connelly said he and Branson businessman Jim Thomas bought the theater in 1992 when it was in bankruptcy.

"I was the money. Jim was my sweat equity and my local partner," Connelly said. Now, he said, he has bought Thomas' interest in the theater "for millions ... to have complete control to spend my money the way I want to."

Connelly, chairman and chief executive officer of J. Edward Connelly Associates Inc., in Pittsburgh, Pa., oversees nearly a dozen companies including marketing organizations, hotels, resorts and riverboat cruise fleets.

Although his company also operates The Admiral, a riverboat casino in St. Louis, Connelly said he did not have an interest in bringing gambling to Branson. "I really don't see gaming in Branson. Branson is a family scene," he said.

He said that what he does hope to bring to his 2,700-seat Branson theater is more major productions, such as Broadway shows and Vegas-style variety shows, some of which could be especially promoted during the winter months when the theater is ordinarily closed.

"I think I can bring a worldwide scope to the theater," he said. Currently the theater is home to the Branson City Lights variety show.

Connelly also owns, adjacent to the theater, a building marked earlier this year for a new circus-themed restaurant. He said the restaurant will open, but under a new theme.

Connelly's brother, Gene, will stay in Branson to oversee business operations.

One concern that Connelly said he had was the way the theater was previously marketed. According to the theater's executive marketing director, Jack McNamara, the theater has $1 million budgeted for marketing and has increased the marketing staff from three or four employees to 11 people.

Connelly said, "We will market to the world, not just to Springfield or a regional market. (Branson) is the family capital (of the world). It's not just country western. We're going to take it to greater heights."

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