Stage Door / Costume World Deal Formally Falls Through

By Bill Hirschman

In another turn in a deal that has flipped repeatedly, the owners of the Broward Stage Door in Coral Springs announced Tuesday that its sale to Costume World of Broward County has fallen apart.

Costume World’s CEO Marilyn Wick confirmed Wednesday that the deal has “stalled,” although both parties said a slight possibility exists of salvaging the deal sometime in the future.

“We consider the sale off,” Stage Door Executive Producer/Artistic Director Derelle Bunn said Tuesday. “I can’t say it’s 100 percent (off) but it’s highly unlikely. There is a long shot.”

Wick wrote in a news release Wednesday, “I am extremely disappointed that I could not put this financial package together….  I had many high hopes for the space including a renovation, working with the vast array of talented artists and technicians in professional theatre in South Florida and showcasing our incredible costume inventory.  But, I guess it wasn’t meant to be.”

Instead, to bolster their patrons’ confidence, Stage Door’s owners announced a 2012-2013 season schedule and plan to continue the current season in their side-by-side auditoriums, including My Fair Lady slated for Feb. 17.

Although a pact was supposed to be signed Nov. 21, the deal ran onto shoals within days after it was made public Nov. 7. To begin with, the two parties could not agree on the size of the debt that Costume World would have to shoulder.

Since then, various insiders have told colleagues in the theater community that the deal was scuttled, while the principals such as Stage Door co-founder Dave Torres said publically that the deal was still in negotiations.

On Tuesday last week, attorneys for both sides had reached a full agreement, Bunn said.

One insider told Florida Theater On Stage on Monday this week that a document was being readied for signatures. But at nearly the same moment, the deal cratered as the sides disagreed on deal-breaker issues.

A key one involves whether Costume World would receive about $92,000 cash from the proceeds of advance sales for My Fair Lady, Bunn said. Much of that money is unavailable because it was spent on costs preparing to mount the show, such as mailing out expensive flyers to patrons, Bunn said.

The complicating factor for Stage Door’s venture since late 2010 has been running a third auditorium at the city-owned Byron Carlyle Theater in Miami Beach. Bunn and Torres had hoped to sell the Coral Springs operation and concentrate on managing and presenting shows at the Dade facility. They are currently negotiating with multiple theater companies to share that space in coming seasons, Bunn said.

But operating it successfully will take time and concentration, Bunn said. Miami Beach audiences apparently do not often buy tickets more than a day ahead of a performance, let alone buy season subscriptions. The uncertain revenue stream and poor pre-sales caused Bunn and Torres to cancel transferring the big budget Coral Springs show A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum to the Carlyle last fall and preempted a proposed production of Annie.

To counteract that, Torres announced this week that the next season has been firmed up for the Coral Springs facility.
— Neil Simon’s rarely-seen Rumors, Oct. 19-Nov. 11
Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, which ran at the Coconut Grove Playhouse years ago, Nov. 9-Dec. 2
Fiddler on the Roof, Dec. 7-31
The World Goes ‘Round, a revue of Kander and Ebb hits so popular that three South Florida theaters once did it in the same season, Dec. 28-Jan. 20, 2013
Damn Yankees, the musical with such standards as “Whatever Lola Wants,” Jan. 18-Feb. 10, 2013.
Deathtrap, the classic meta-thriller about a washed up mystery writer and his protégé, Feb. 8-March 3, 2013 — which will play at the Carlyle this February.
Jerry’s Girls, a revue of Jerry Herman hits, March 1-2
Beau Jest, the Jewish-themed comedy that was once so popular and ran so long that it rescued Stage Door’s finances for several years, April 5-28

Opened in 1995 in a deserted movie house behind a strip shopping center, Stage Door has veered wildly both creatively and financially. It marketed doggedly to senior citizens and snowbirds who sought familiar mainstream musicals, revues based the pop songbooks of beloved composers and Jewish-themed comedies.

But recently, it has staged three critically-acclaimed prestige productions that won over patrons through word of mouth rather than title familiarity: The Drowsy Chaperone, The Light in the Piazza and especially A Little Night Music.

At one time, it boasted 12,000 subscribers – rivaling other major regional houses  – but currently has about 2,000. Over the counter ticket sales for single shows often account for much of its revenue, Bunn said. Its annual budget has dropped from $2.5 million when it managed three houses to a current annual budget of $1.6 million to fill its two auditoriums.

Broward-based Costume World, billed as the largest theatrical costume distributor in the country, solidified its clout as a national player when it acquired Dodger Costumes in 2005, giving it an inventory of 1.2 million pieces including the original costumes from 35 Broadway shows. Its two locations in Broward County, on-line operation, plus stores in Austin, Pittsburgh and Dallas service 100 shows a month, not to mention special events and Halloween parties. Additionally, it recently opened its Broadway Collection, a museum in Pompano Beach that features original gowns designed by Cecil Beaton for Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady.

If the sale is finished, Stage Door (which sometimes spends $150,000 a year on renting costumes from Wick) plans to get its My Fair Lady costumes and all future wardrobe needs from another company.

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