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New Theater Problems

Printed From: Community Theater Green Room
Category: Theater Administration
Forum Name: Money Talk
Forum Discription: Questions about fundraising and promotion
URL: http://www.communitytheater.org/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=2023
Printed Date: 7/18/24 at 12:55pm
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 8.05 - http://www.webwizforums.com


Topic: New Theater Problems
Posted By: brianwolters
Subject: New Theater Problems
Date Posted: 9/11/06 at 10:23pm

Hello!

I really hate that my first post in this forum is a problem, but we have a problem. And before anyone says "You needed it in writing", please hear me out.

In January of 2006, I was approached by a local dance instructor to see if I wanted to help out with starting a community theater in our town. My 20 years of stage experience with her 40+ years in dance and show was a good combo. We decided to do SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN.

She knew of a local eating place that had a huge stage that we could use. They also put up the initial investment over the rights of the show. However, the our city matched it on a fine arts grant, so we were now already breaking even and the initial risk was over. Over the next few months, we all discussed the fact that we would become non-profit after our first show. While the place served food, we weren't considering a "dinner theater" at first but decided that we should and it was a major success. We even did 2 extra shows without dinner and the crowd just bought food on their own.

The production was a smash hit. The actors, director, musical director and everyone involved in the production did not get paid. I was the director and even played the Pastor and just invested all my time into it for the love of the art and to raise money for future shows.

We made over $5900.00 but the place said after their expenses (payroll, food investment for the dinner theater shows, etc) that the profit was $3800.00. While we have requested a run down of these numbers, the owner has also said that they need to keep the majority of the remaining "profit" because they had the initial risk. With the city matching the funds, the risk was gone.

He has asked us what we think is "fair". Again, we are in the process of being non-profit and we expected all funds to go to our new and successful theater. He said he is in it for the money and expects most of it.

NOTHING, either from our end or his end said (in writing) who gets what with the early understanding that we throw most of it back in the theater. (we have him in email saying it would go back to the theater group.)

We believe he is just getting greedy because this was a smash hit. If he wants to take the profit, then I believe he needs to pay the people who made it happen (actors, directors, etc) or give is all the money. With SMALL CLAIMS being a last resort, what do you all suggest?

Sincerely,
Brian




Replies:
Posted By: Linda S
Date Posted: 9/12/06 at 12:39am

Question: Who handled the box office and has the money right now? Unless it is you, it doesn't sound like he is going to give you your money without a fight. The question for him would be, "Is the money worth the bad publicity?" That maybe all you have to bargain with. You can try giving him a bill for director's fees etc., but I wouldn't count that money. Without a contract it is going to be hard to prove that the money is owed you, and it sounds like he knows it. This sounds like a lot of lessons learned the hard way.  

Congratulations on the success of your show and I hope you come out of this with enough money and energy to do it again in a DIFFERENT venue with a CONTRACT. Heck, I even have the nice old ladies at the Grange we rent sign a contract.

Good Luck,

Linda



Posted By: Gaafa
Date Posted: 9/12/06 at 4:07am
Just a wee point!
Was there calculated into the admission a  separate cost for the show & the dinner?
If there was, it would be easy to work out what he would be entitled to keep as the dinner money & the theatre gets the admission to the show.
In most pub shows this is how it is split up normally & the use of the venue is covered by the bar takings.
Or was the food charged separately to each of the dinners?
There would have been no risk on the restaurants part, if the food was covered in the price. Also with him paying the rights & supplying the venue, this would have been cheap advertising for the business the show generated. Any grants & sponsorship your group may receive has nothing what soever to do with the owner.
Frankly as suggested you may have to put this down to experience & find another venue. But I would certainly let the local rag know or at least threaten to let them know what has transpired. If it goes that far to also give a hint of planning further dinner productions elsewhere - then see what happens & which way he jumps!



-------------
      Joe
Western Gondawandaland
turn right @ Perth.
Hear the light & see the sound.
Toi Toi Toi Chookas {{"chook [chicken] it is"}
May you always play
to a full house}



Posted By: brianwolters
Date Posted: 9/12/06 at 7:00am
Originally posted by Linda S

Question: Who handled the box office and has the money right now? Unless it is you, it doesn't sound like he is going to give you your money without a fight. The question for him would be, "Is the money worth the bad publicity?" That maybe all you have to bargain with. You can try giving him a bill for director's fees etc., but I wouldn't count that money. Without a contract it is going to be hard to prove that the money is owed you, and it sounds like he knows it. This sounds like a lot of lessons learned the hard way.  

Congratulations on the success of your show and I hope you come out of this with enough money and energy to do it again in a DIFFERENT venue with a CONTRACT. Heck, I even have the nice old ladies at the Grange we rent sign a contract.

Good Luck,

Linda

Well, he is quoted in saying the money will go back into the association. Plus, he is showing signs of "cut and run" by saying we aren't welcome back into May when we had plans to do shows in January and March.

 



Posted By: Topper
Date Posted: 9/12/06 at 9:55am

Rather than going to small claims court another option might be to hire an idependent accountant (or your legal society might be able to find one) who is empowered to examine Mr. Cook's books and records to see where the money went.   However, the cost of the accountant might easily absorb any profits you might win back.

I'm no lawyer but I have to agree with the previous posters -- without an existing contract you'll have a hard time collecting the money -- even if you do go to small claims court.

The matching funds provided by the city certainly reduced the venue owner (let's call him Mr. Cook) risk, but now he can claim (despite whatever rental fees he might tack on) using his place of business put extra demands on his electric bill, his water bill, his maintenance, his waste management, his insurance liabilities, his employees and dozens of other "hidden costs" and thereby claim entitlement to any profit.

Plus the fact that without Mr. Cook's building or facility (and his initial investment to purchase the rights to the show) a judge could easily claim that your production wasn't viable without Cook's cooperation.

Since Mr. Cook is operating a place of business and not a charity he would be expected to enter into this venture for a profit.  If, however, you were staging this show to benefit a charity (and not doing it to try and establish a non-profit organization that has no paperwork) then Mr. Cook would be foolish to try and abscond with the money as that would certainly make him look greedy.

No matter how this turns out, your group will need to seek another venue anyway (do you really want to work with Mr. Cook again?)Again, chalk it up to a hard lesson in experience and the reality that not everybody is into theater simply because they love it. 



-------------
"None of us really grow up. All we ever do is learn how to behave in public." -- Keith Johnstone


Posted By: brianwolters
Date Posted: 9/12/06 at 1:59pm

Hello...I have an update.

I called the city's promotion's committee who signed the check over to our group for the grant. I explained our situation to him and he basically said the check was written to the theater group and not the restaurant. If the money is going to the restaurant and not the group, then they have a problem with that. They requested we and the restaurant owner (Mr. Cook, ha) attend their next meeting a week from today to see how their money was spent.

I am hoping that at the very least, we get the amount of the grant. Plus, because of our success, they may feel good about giving us another one. They also suggested we try a new venue.

Here's to hope!
Brian



Posted By: Gaafa
Date Posted: 9/13/06 at 4:54am
G?donya Brian!
Let us know how it turns out & if Mr Chook actually fronts up?
What Mr chook [oops Mr Cook?] has to realise is there are 3 types of contracts that can be made. The best being a Written one of course. Then there is a Verbal & Implied contracts, which have varying degrees of being able to be enforced. But they are all valid contacts no matter how they come about or actioned. Only you have to well & truly prove the latter two!
Go for the full chop & this gives you room to settle back on compromise amount.
But ensure your have the paper work to satisfy & acquit  the grant expenditure, because this is the bottom line they will be looking to audit!



-------------
      Joe
Western Gondawandaland
turn right @ Perth.
Hear the light & see the sound.
Toi Toi Toi Chookas {{"chook [chicken] it is"}
May you always play
to a full house}



Posted By: brianwolters
Date Posted: 9/13/06 at 7:28am

Well, we meet with Mr. Chook (ha) on Thursday and the city next Tuesday. I am going to stress that NOTHING was in wrting about who gets the funds and that again we all said non-profit. I think a netural person needs to take possession of the funds until it is resolved as well.

We shall see!

 



Posted By: castMe
Date Posted: 9/13/06 at 5:32pm
Good luck at he meeting with Mr Crook

-------------
Investigate. Imagine. Choose.


Posted By: brianwolters
Date Posted: 9/19/06 at 5:58pm

Update

Well, we are still having issues. We did record a timeline of our events and email quotes of where Mr. Crook went from 100% non-profot to just yesterday, only offering me and the producer a small Stipend and nothing else for our group.

We meet tonight to hear as to why his business deserves more but we are very sure they are false numbers or expenses they had they had but labeled as for the show and not for what they were intended to be for.

Boy, I can't wait to join the other discussions on Community Theatre.

 

 



Posted By: dougb
Date Posted: 9/20/06 at 12:20pm
A few late thoughts. 

The biggest lever you have over Mr. Cook are your future productions.  If he made a lot of money on this show, he will want part of it next time.  You can walk away having lost money you deserved once but he will lose money on every one of your future shows.

Another future problem:  If you incorporate as a non-profit and try to get your 501(c)(3) from the IRS, they will look at you as a for-profit subsidary of the restaurant.  The funds from the city will help but the IRS will say that you are not "publically supported" because your money came from one for-profit entity:  the restaurant.  You will see several threads on this site (and others) telling you not to do dinner theater and this is a big part of the reason.

If you continue to do theater (with Mr. Cook or someone else), make sure that you get paid by the attending public.  You can enter into an agreement with the venue to sell tickets on your behalf but you have to make it clear that they are paying you for tickets sold to the public and it doesn't look like a business expense for entertainment for the venue. 


Posted By: Gaafa
Date Posted: 9/20/06 at 12:44pm
Good pionts dougb!
I feel at the very mention Of the IRS & the possibility of a City funding audit, in the same breath, would work magic!
Thus allowing him to weigh up the possible implications.
I would certainly try to take an independent witness to the meeting!
good luck Brian.



-------------
      Joe
Western Gondawandaland
turn right @ Perth.
Hear the light & see the sound.
Toi Toi Toi Chookas {{"chook [chicken] it is"}
May you always play
to a full house}



Posted By: B-M-D
Date Posted: 9/21/06 at 1:34pm
Haven't read all of the posts but my suggestion: Get a lawyer who's a theatre lover to help you for gratis.

-------------
BD

"Dying is easy, comedy is hard."


Posted By: jayzehr
Date Posted: 9/29/06 at 10:07pm
So how did all this turn out?


Posted By: brianwolters
Date Posted: 4/04/07 at 12:06pm
Hey Everyone...sorry for the delay...long story short, we settled for half and moved on. We are open to returning to this place only if we have it all in writing and if it is fair. But, the city is about to let us use an old city gym and may help us repair it through grants...can't wait to check it out.


Posted By: Kibitzer
Date Posted: 4/04/07 at 2:02pm
This forum gave your restaurant "partner" an apt name:  Mr. Crook.  I would urge you to avoid doing any business with him at all in the future.  Getting any more than you did from him was perhaps possible, but probably not worth the agony and aggravation.  If he had a decent reputation before this, he has now sullied it. 

Best of luck with your new venture and on working with your city!

-------------
"Security is a kind of death." - Tennessee Williams


Posted By: brianwolters
Date Posted: 4/05/07 at 4:08pm
Originally posted by Kibitzer

This forum gave your restaurant "partner" an apt name:  Mr. Crook.  I would urge you to avoid doing any business with him at all in the future.  Getting any more than you did from him was perhaps possible, but probably not worth the agony and aggravation.  If he had a decent reputation before this, he has now sullied it. 

Best of luck with your new venture and on working with your city!
 
Yeah, and his slow communication makes me think they are cooking up something else.

My partner and I will go look at the old gym next week and then get our board formed and try to get grants!


Posted By: brianwolters
Date Posted: 8/10/07 at 2:54pm
Another update:

We went back to Mr. Crooks place for one last show because we have nowhere else to go. The proceeds of this show will go toward the eventual remodel of the old city Gym into a fine arts center. Once we are tax exempt, we will apply for grants...until then, we have no home unless we pay Mr. Crook.


Posted By: Kathy S
Date Posted: 8/11/07 at 2:10am

I wish you could see the wonderful theatre that we have created from an old gym... It too is owned by the town we are in, but we've been able to work a mutually agreeable deal with them.  Last year we made some huge improvements to the building, including a new roof.  We don't get a lot of grants, but we get some and that helps.  We could probably get more if we wanted to focus on that, but writing them is such a chore and we'd rather be doing theatre.  Good luck on your make over!



Posted By: brianwolters
Date Posted: 8/15/07 at 5:50pm
Originally posted by Kathy S

I wish you could see the wonderful theatre that we have created from an old gym... It too is owned by the town we are in, but we've been able to work a mutually agreeable deal with them.  Last year we made some huge improvements to the building, including a new roof.  We don't get a lot of grants, but we get some and that helps.  We could probably get more if we wanted to focus on that, but writing them is such a chore and we'd rather be doing theatre.  Good luck on your make over!


Wow...do you have any pictures I could see? Website perhaps?
 


Posted By: Gaafa
Date Posted: 8/16/07 at 12:24am
Originally posted by brianwolters

Another update:

We went back to Mr. Crooks place for one last show because we have nowhere else to go. The proceeds of this show will go toward the eventual remodel of the old city Gym into a fine arts center. Once we are tax exempt, we will apply for grants...until then, we have no home unless we pay Mr. Crook.

I think this is a major "Blue'!
As you posted you obviously have acess to the ;old city gym' - so why not use it.
I'm sure with a bit of elbow grease, you can turn it into a tempory useable space.
Also your punters will see the need to refurbish & it could motivate more "free 'n for gratis" assistance, by a few benifactors, prepared to give you some gold bricks or at least a big cheque?
Theatre can be performed in any space & the less you put in old Crooks sky rocket, the more goes into refurbishment.




-------------
      Joe
Western Gondawandaland
turn right @ Perth.
Hear the light & see the sound.
Toi Toi Toi Chookas {{"chook [chicken] it is"}
May you always play
to a full house}



Posted By: brianwolters
Date Posted: 8/17/07 at 2:28pm
Well, we needed another financial boost to get a jump start on the gym. We will begin work on it this fall. :)

 



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