Michael Ovitz's first months as chief of Livent won't be easy ones if one is to judge from the Canadian theatrical production company's 1998 first quarter showing. According to figures released by the company, Livent lost $20 million during the period ending March 31, 1998. That represents two thirds of the $30 million the company lost in all of 1997.
Though Ovitz and his team, including new chairman and CEO Roy Furman, won't officially take control until after a June 5 shareholder vote, the former Disney executive and power agent's hand in the company's operations is already evident. Responding to the first quarter losses, Livent announced it would now focus on "productions with potentially higher margins." That translates into the axing of one of the two North American touring companies of Show Boat. The musical in question will close during 1998, and the company will write off roughly $16 million in expenses related to the show. Livent does not know at this point which of the touring productions will be closed. No one from Livent's new leadership team was immediately available for comment.
Other salient figures from the first quarter findings included a 19 percent jump in operating expenses to $45 million, and an increase in preproduction costs from $9 million to nearly $17 million. Upcoming Livent productions include Fosse: A Celebration in Song and Dance, due to open in Toronto in July; and the Jason Robert Brown-Alfred Uhry musical Parade, to open at Lincoln Center in November with Harold Prince directing.
Ovitz's sudden entrance into legitimate theatre was announced in April. Under the agreement, he will buy 2.5 million shares of Livent, or 12 percent, for $20 million. Ovitz brought along with him a hand-picked management team, including Furman and new president David Maisel. Livent founder Garth Drabinsky, who had run both the financial and creative sides of the theatrical concern, stepped aside to become vice chairman and chief creative director for live theatre.
-- By Robert Simonson