David Mugar will go out with a bang with his Fourth of July show back on national TV and headlined by pop stars Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas .
At 77, Mugar is producing his 43rd — and last — Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular on the Charles River Esplanade. The CBS television network will once again air the show nationally, after having dropped it in 2012.
The concert and fireworks will be broadcast live during a two-hour special on July 4, starting at 9 p.m. — an hour longer than previous telecasts. The local CBS affiliate, WBZ-TV (Channel 4), will cover the concert live from 8 to 9 p.m.
“It’s an incredible chance for New England to really shine,” Mugar said.
This year’s event still lacks a major corporate sponsor, but a national TV contract and bankable stars will almost certainly stir up interest. The free outdoor event brings more than a half million people to the Esplanade.
“It should be a big help,” said Mugar of the national TV deal. “I’m not sure what else you can do in life to produce a special.”
Mugar is offering his own money to put on the show but is still pursuing sponsors to cover the $2.5 million cost. His family fortune came from selling the Star Market empire decades ago, and he has since become a serial entrepreneur and philanthropist.
The return to national TV is a coup for Mugar. When CBS declined to renew the show, he blamed it on low ratings that followed NBC’s decision to start broadcasting New York City’s July 4th fireworks show. In 2011, the Boston national broadcast caught some flak after the live fireworks display over the Charles River was superimposed over pre-filmed landmarks in other parts of the city.
A network audience allows Mugar to once again attract the music world’s hottest acts. Lovato and Jonas, both multiplatinum-selling artists, will perform some of their biggest hits with the Pops under the direction of longtime conductor Keith Lockhart.
Mugar started the fireworks concert in 1974 with legendary Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler. The conductor used to give free summer concerts on the Esplanade, and a tradition was born after Mugar floated the idea of adding fireworks, cannons and church bells to Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.”