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World Cafe Live founder Hal Real helps save the Queen (Theater in Wilmington)

Of all the stations on all the car stereos in all the world, Philadelphia entrepreneur Hal Real's dial happened to stumble on 88.5 one afternoon and a live music institution was born. An avid concert-goer, Real became frustrated with Philadelphia's smoky stages. When he heard WXPN's World Cafe, hosted by David Dye, he knew he had found his live music muse.

Six years later, World Cafe Live is one of the most popular music venues in Philadelphia, driving a nightlife crowd to a sparse section of UPenn's campus. Earlier this summer, Real began a crusade to bring live music to another underutilized area as his company, Real Entertainment Group redevelops the historic Queen Theater in Wilmington, Del. Real created Light Up The Queen, a non-profit redevelopment group designed to restore this storied theater to its former glory.

"You can't have a monumental building like that sit there like a piece of urban blight," says Real. "It needs to come back to life."

Opened as a vaudeville theater in 1917, the Queen went dark in 1959. But as downtown Wilmington begins a $325 million Market Street redevelopment, buildings like the Queen have been targeted for demolition. Real believes the hype in Wilmington and hopes his venue can help draw visitors from nearby Philadelphia and South Jersey. The Light Up The Queen foundation has already hosted musical acts like Trombone Shorty at public locations around Wilmington to promote the new venue.

"Geographically, Wilmington is smack in the middle of New York City and Washington, DC. It is five minutes off of I-95 and a 10-minute walk to the Amtrak train station," says Real. "That's why Wilmington is going through this great renaissance. Lots more acts would be willing to play Wilmington if they had a venue."

Source: Hal Real, Real Entertainment Group
Writer: John Steele
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