BACK STAGE WEST

 

July 16, 1998

 

 

Show-Tixx a No-Show

L.A. Ticket Service Leaves Theatres Short

 

by Rob Kendt

 

In the second loss of a Los Angeles theatre ticketing service in less than a year, the Sherman Oaks-based Show-Tixx has closed its doors—or, more precisely, locked them and disappeared leaving the small L.A. theatres it serviced short of tens of thousands of dollars in credit card reservations.

 

Most affected is Hollywood's Celebration Theatre, whose hit show Naked Boys Singing was selling out many weeks in advance through Show-Tixx when its owner, Steve Thomas, began to be delinquent with checks to the Celebration, which bounced when they finally arrived. When Thomas apparently vanished without a trace last week, Show-Tixx had sold tickets for at least four weekends of Naked Boys shows—sales of more than $20,000, said Schrock.

 

"Our existence is very precarious right now," said Schrock, who at presstime had not pressed charges against Thomas. "We have no cash flow, and we're 80 percent box-office-dependent for our survival." Indeed, last weekend Naked Boys played mostly to audiences who'd reserved through Show-Tixx, and "that hurt—to be doing it for nothing," lamented Schrock.

 

Others who stand to lose money from Show-Tixx include Stan Roth, the producer of Ravenscroft at the Ventura Court Theatre, who projects the loss at around $600. Bill Reilly, the producer of an unexpected hit, the Excalibur Theatre Company's The Boys From Syracuse, wouldn't disclose how much money he stood to lose but did say: "It's the difference between breaking even and not. It's devastating."

 

The news comes as a blow to small local theatres, who last year weathered the suspiciously similar demise of Theatix, a ticket service run by Melodie Annis which also closed its doors in August, 1997 with debts outstanding.

 

Indeed, the folding of Theatix gave the relatively new Show-Tixx enterprise a boost, as Annis turned most of her theatre clients over to Thomas when Theatix shuttered in August. Show-Tixx had been modestly founded in January, 1997 by playwright Del Shores (Daddy's Dyin', Who's Got the Will) to service his play Sordid Lives. Steve Thomas lived with Shores at the time, and when they split up in June of that year, Shores sold his interest in the company to Thomas, who incorporated it under his name and moved it into an office on Ventura Blvd.

 

"I'm devastated, quite honestly," said Shores, who remained on amicable terms with Thomas and Show-Tixx until the recent debacle; Thomas, Shores said, still owes him $12,000 of last year's buyout. "When I was involved with Show-Tixx, we ran it at a profit. We were always very meticulous about the books."

 

Such ticket services make their money off the service charges; Show-Tixx's going rate was $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 a theatre with a check after that weekend, which means that advance sales can rack up the account far in excess of what must be paid out in checks each week.

 

Most sources speculated that this disparity may be what tempted Thomas to "over-extend" himself, and to "rob Peter to pay Paul"—to make the high-raking hits pay the weekly bills to smaller shows without a plan for how the hits would get their money in the end.

 

One theatre company, Theatre InSite, used both Theatix and Show-Tixx, because the epic run of its runaway hit, Is It Just Me or Is It Hot in Here?, spanned the year (it finally closed, after 14 months, on July 2). Artistic director Michael Arabian said that Theatix's Annis still owes Theatre InSite $10,000—but that his bad experience with Theatix helped him "see the signs" and escape from Show-Tixx unscathed. Arabian feels that action is needed to prevent the pattern from recurring.

 

"I don't understand why there are no safeguards in such a situation, where a company can receive credit card payments with no protection or insurance to customers or clients," said Arabian. "What needs to happen is a permit they have to apply for from the city, where they have to put up a bond. Also, the ticket agent is holding money in trust for the theatres, so the money should put into a trust, not a regular bank account."

 

Said the Excalibur's Reilly, "What this guy's absconded with can't amount to all that much in today's world, but when you break down these little amounts, they're crucially important to little theatres like us."

 

The Show-Tixx office, in a mini-mall near the intersection of Fulton and Ventura Blvd., has apparently been stripped of equipment and furniture; according to the property manager, Show-Tixx signed a one-year lease in May, but when he went to the office to collect rent on July 1, he found it empty.

 

At presstime, the message on the Show-Tixx phone line—(818) 789-TIXX, or 789-8499—still answered cheerily, but its mailbox was full.