From MTelus to Beanfield, place name changes are the ‘reality of the business’

Partnerships are essential to keeping ticket prices where they are, Evenko’s Nick Farkas said.

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So what do you think of the Beanfield Theatre? I know…Bean-what?

Yes, Montreal has a new theater that is actually an old theater. Beanfield has been around for more than a century, although you may know it by its previous name, Corona Theatre, which had been around since 1923, or for exactly 100 years until it was converted into a bean field in June.

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Built in 1912 as a silent movie theater, the building was known as the Family Theater during its first decade of operation, when it was sold to United Amusements Corporation.

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The venue went through multiple incarnations, even serving as storage at one point before being acquired by a nonprofit organization and reopening for concerts and cultural events in 1997. It was purchased by Virgin Mobile in partnership with Evenko in 2012, and was known as Virgin Mobile Corona for a few years before returning to the old Corona.

And now it’s Beanfield, although you’d be forgiven for not knowing that. It can be difficult to keep up to date, as many of Montreal’s venues seem to change names depending on the season.

a musical theater seen from the street
The Corona Theater became the Beanfield Theater last June as a result of a partnership between Toronto telecommunications company Beanfield and Montreal developer Evenko, which manages the space. Despite the name change, the venue’s historic Corona neon sign remains. Photo by Dave Sidaway /Montreal Gazette

Another historic Montreal concert venue, Metropolis, became MTelus in 2017. The intimate L’Astral became Le Studio TD in 2022. Turn back the clock a little further and the Molson Centre, opened in 1996, became the Bell Center in 2002.

“I know Metropolis is a big name, Corona is a big name, but times change and evolve,” said Nick Farkas, senior vice president of concerts and events at promoter Evenko, which manages the aforementioned concert venues. Evenko is owned by Le Groupe CH, which also owns the Bell Centre.

“People may miss the name, but it’s the reality of business in 2023-24,” Farkas said.

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Beanfield is a telecommunications company based in Toronto. As part of its partnership with Evenko, it is providing funds to enable much-needed work to be carried out on the building. Despite the name change, the venue’s historic Corona neon sign will remain. It has even been renovated, which can lead to some confusion since both names appear on the facade of the theater. The name Corona can also be found on the tile floor upon entering the building.

The area between the bar and the front of the house has been converted into two levels, offering better views. There is talk of updating the green room and backstage areas, while respecting strict heritage regulations. And given the experience of its title sponsor, Beanfield is now connected to high-speed fiber internet.

a man is sitting in a music venue, looking back, with the stage as a backdrop
Nick Farkas inside the Beanfield Theater in Montreal on Wednesday, December 20, 2023. Photo by Dave Sidaway /Montreal Gazette

“(The agreement) gives us the opportunity to do things that maybe we would have done over time, but it allows us to take them to the top of the list,” Farkas said. “You don’t see many buildings (with names like) the Montreal Forum anymore. Naming rights in venues of all sizes have become very important in the last 10 years. When you’re trying to compete internationally and bring international artists to town, you have to try to find income.

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“When you have a (Canadian) dollar that is worth what it is worth, it is not good at all. Add to that high taxes and (competition from) the rest of the United States, and domestic revenue needs to be maximized to ensure we can continue operating.”

Which is understandable, but it doesn’t make it any easier to start saying Beanfield instead of Corona, or MTelus instead of Metropolis. For the nostalgic among us, it may seem a matter of principle.

Farkas understands it. He comes from a punk rock background, “where there was no sponsorship,” he said. So he understands the anti-corporate spirit of DIY. But he also knows the modern realities of the music business.

“From the early days of punk rock to where we are now, there has been a complete, 100 percent change in everything,” Farkas explained.

He points to Evenko festivals, including Osheaga, where “the partnership has become a very important piece in keeping ticket prices where they are and delivering the type of festival we want.”

That being said, consistency is important. Naming rights for places are typically multi-year contracts, Farkas explained. Telus’ partnership with MTelus begins in 2026 and Beanfield’s lasts until June 2027. Farkas hopes the companies will stick around.

“We don’t want to change names every few years,” he said. “Ideally, they would stay with us, and as long as we are around, they will be there. Corona did not have a regular partner for a long time; There just wasn’t the right one out there. Then these guys came in and, wow, they’re really cool, so we closed the deal. We still have a theater that is over 100 years old; It’s still the same place.

“Telus is a great partner for Metropolis; They are in this for the long haul. They want their name to be in a fantastic place. And we want the place to be great. We want to bring as many bands to the city as people want to see. And this allows us to do it.”

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