LOS ANGELES -- Showtixx is a No Show.
The local company that handled telephone reservations and credit card sales for two dozen of L.A.'s Equity waiver theatres folded suddenly the week of July 13, with the owner owing tens of thousands of dollars to producers.
The news comes as a blow to the theatrical community, which last year weathered the suspiciously similar demise of another company, Theatix, when it closed shop overnight with debts outstanding.
Most affected by Showtixx's demise is Hollywood's Celebration Theatre, whose hit show Naked Boys Singing was selling out weeks in advance through the agency when its owner, Steve Thomas, began to be delinquent with checks, which bounced when they finally arrived. When Thomas vanished without a trace last week, Showtixx had sold tickets for at least four weekends of Naked Boys shows--sales of more than $20,000 said Celebration's artistic director Robert Schrock.
Schrock called the loss from ticket revenues kept by Showtixx "nothing short of catastrophe" for the small company, which has an annual budget of just over $200,000 and charges $20-25 a ticket. Schrock and another staff member have gone unpaid since mid-June, and he said the theatre is unable, at present, to post a $1,378 bond due with Actors' Equity to cover salaries for the cast of its hit revue. Nor are the show's creators being paid their monthly royalties. Showtixx was founded in January, 1997 by Thomas and Del Shores, a well-known L.A. playwright. Shores later sold his interest to Thomas, who incorporated it under his name and moved the office from Hollywood to Sherman Oaks.
"I'm devastated, quite honestly," said Shores, who remained on amicable terms with Thomas and Showtixx until the recent debacle. Thomas, Shores said, still owes him $12,000 out of last year's buyout. "When I was involved with Showtixx, we ran it at a profit. We were always very meticulous about the books."
Ticket agencies like Showtixx make their money from the service charges, approximately $4 on top of the printed price. They also charge a small weekly fee, around $25, to theatres for the service; the fee is typically deducted from a show's receipts. The full value of the credit card orders for a given weekend, minus the service charges, is paid out to the theatre with a check after the weekend, which means that advance sales can rack up the account far in excess of what must be paid out in checks each week.
One other company, Tickets L.A., now provides telephone box-office service for several smaller theatres. Many local producers have called on Theatre LA, the support and advocacy organization, to start a nonprofit ticket agency for its members.
-- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent