After canceled shows, firm files for bankruptcy

Baci left Lyric, other theaters in a bind

March 28, 2007|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,Sun Reporter

Towson-based Baci Management Inc., which left the Lyric Opera House and other theaters in the lurch recently after its subscription-series touring shows were abruptly canceled, has filed for bankruptcy.

All but three of the eight Broadway-style productions that Baci had booked for Baltimore's Lyric between last September and this May were called off, hurting the theater and aggravating customers.

The Maryland attorney general's office said it is trying to mediate 77 complaints about Baci. Theaters in Washington and Virginia were also affected.

The Lyric brought in other programs and concerts to replace the canceled shows, but the substitutes haven't had the same draw as Broadway-style productions. The nonprofit theater has lost money as a result, and Baci's Performing Arts Productions arm also owes the organization unpaid rent and other fees, said Lyric executive director Sandy Richmond. He expects the theater will sue.

"It's very unfortunate," Richmond said. "We're doing whatever we can to work with the patrons who have been affected."

The aggrieved parties aren't just ticket holders. Baci's bankruptcy papers, filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Maryland last week, list more than 200 creditors. The company - which has booked theater shows since at least the late 1980s - reported about $290,000 in assets and $4.9 million in liabilities.

Neither Baci President Nicholas C. Litrenta nor his attorney returned telephone messages seeking comment.

Marks Chowning, a vice president of Live Nation, which operates Washington's Warner Theatre, another venue affected by Baci's canceled tours, said the bankruptcy filing is "not surprising given what we know about the current situation." Frustrated ticket holders began calling the Maryland attorney general's office in January.

"That's quite a few complaints in a short period of time," said Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for the attorney general. "Whenever a company files bankruptcy, that means there are most likely very few, if any, assets left to pay their creditors, and of course that reduces the likelihood that consumers will get some, if any, relief. But we will continue to work on these cases."

At the Lyric, the canceled shows were Elton John's Aida, Casablanca, Cabaret, On Golden Pond and the Ray Charles tribute I Can't Stop Loving You. Richmond said two of the shows were called off for reasons unrelated to Baci's troubles - Casablanca, for example, never went on tour as planned - but the rest of the cancellations were unexpected.

Rent played as scheduled in December. The Lyric took over the February production of Lord of the Dance and the May showing of Jesus Christ Superstar to keep them from been called off, too.

"If we could have taken the others over, we would have, but the producers didn't give us the opportunity," Richmond said.

He said consumers who bought tickets through the Lyric or Ticketmaster have received refunds. Those who purchased directly from Baci and have not been so lucky are getting credits from the Lyric to see other shows, he said.

"This will end [up] costing us thousands of dollars, there's no question about it," Richmond said of the credits.

jamie.smith.hopkins @baltsun.com

Sun theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck contributed to this article.

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