VENUE NEWS: House of Blues New Orleans Appoints Assistant Talent Buyer & Thom Wolke Exits Claremont Opera House

Effective September 15, Todd Miller was named assistant talent buyer for House of Blues' New Orleans venue. In the newly created position, Miller will be working with talent buyer Sonny Schneidau.

Miller was the owner and operator of Good Time Entertainment, a Boulder, CO-based talent agency. Artists represented by Good Time Entertainment are being placed with other agencies and/or management.–Jane Cohen and Bob Grossweiner

Thom Wolke Exits Claremont Opera House

(CelebrityAccess News Service) – Thom Wolke has left his position with the Claremont Opera House in Claremont, NH, as executive director and has resurrected his old arts and entertainment production company, Twin Cloud Concerts, Inc. He will also continue to offer assistance at the Opera House as needed.

“It was really a mutual decision that developed earlier this year,” says Wolke. “The Opera House is, like many arts organizations nowadays, struggling not only with funding but with identity issues. The Opera House needs to assess its place within the community at large and not just within the borders of its own town.”

Wolke was hired as an independent contractor by the Opera House in October 2000 and given the title of executive director. It was their first attempt at hiring a full-time position after having a part-time manager for several years. His main priority was to raise the Claremont Opera House’s visibility in the Upper Valley and the Bi-State region and to raise the caliber of artists performing there.

“I inherited the first season from my predecessor and brought the season in under budget,” Wolke says. “Of course the following year, the first season I actually booked, began two weeks after 9/11 so it was an inauspicious beginning."

“We still did pretty good that year, thanks to some ‘Enron-style’ accounting tricks,” Wolke jokes. “Actually, in all seriousness, it was important to restructure some things financially and so a new accountant was brought in, and we worked with our treasurer Roger Formidoni to more correctly align and amortize some of the organization’s assets.”

This past season, despite increases in both memberships and corporate sponsorship revenues, the season still wound up in the red. “It’s quite simple,” Wolke says. “No one came to shows. It didn’t matter whether it was a swingin’ Country show like Asleep at the Wheel or a world-class symphony from Hungary, no one came.”

“And this issue isn’t just confined to Claremont, so there’s no need for self-flagellation," he says. "Many arts organizations nationwide struggled and continue to struggle with attendance issues. People are just ‘cocooning’ right now, confining themselves to the creature comforts of their own homes and VCRs, shying away from the joys that come from fraternizing with their neighbors. Actually, the Opera House is situated pretty well, weathering this recent ‘storm’. Many other institutions are in much worse shape and teetering on the brink of ‘extinction’. Whether they know it, or care to admit it, is another story. Hopefully the Claremont Opera House will survive in one shape or another, everyone just needs to come together and do their part.”

The Opera House board of directors cut Wolke’s fee in half beginning April 1 and let him go at the end of the fiscal year June 30. “Actually, they were very kind to me at the end, giving me a small bonus and nice ‘parting gifts,’” he quips. "With the exception of a part-time office manager, they’ll run things with volunteer staffing."

Wolke will continue his small, independent promotions and management company, currently located in his Meriden, NH home. Thom has also managed Guy Davis for almost 10 years and has recently begun work with Adam James, a Neo-Crooner ala Frank Sinatra.

Twin Cloud will also promote the Little Feat concert in Claremont on November 6 and is looking to expand a little by utilizing other venues in the Upper Valley. Iron Horse Standing Seam Roofing of Croydon, NH is sponsoring the show.

“I learned from working with them when they did my roof that they’re very into the great classic rockers like the Feats and The Band. So, it was only natural that I asked them to join me on this show,” Wolke adds.

“Actually, the company purred along in almost idle mode presenting a few shows independently now and then, including Suzanne Vega, Sam Bush and with Steve Earle in Claremont and several shows in Tarrytown, NY, where I was based for 15-plus years,” Wolke confides. "But now I’m free to explore many other ideas. I'll continue with shows in both towns as long as I can."

Wolke is currently evaluating several options on the table at the moment. "I’m fortunate enough to have a variety of skills to offer," he says, "and I’m feeling very relaxed, which is kind of an odd feeling for me, as the process moves forward. One thing I really enjoy doing is putting together creative and successful sponsorship promotions for companies to create enjoyable experiences for patrons and sponsors alike. The trick is knowing what the sponsor wants even if they don’t know it yet!”

“I felt very strongly that the Opera House needed to position itself alongside area craftsmen, artisans really, to show-off the relationship of all art, whether crafted or performed,” Wolke explains, “But you need to analyze the sponsors’ needs too, and then see how that fits into the marketing plans of your organization. It takes time and creative thought, not to mention it’s really a lot of fun!”

“So, now it’s off to look for life’s next big adventure!” Wolke proclaims.
–Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

Cuban to Buy Landmark Theatres

DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and a business partner are buying Landmark Theatre's 55 art house theaters nationwide, sources close to the sale said Tuesday.

Cuban and partner Todd Wagner will own equal shares of the Landmark Theatre chain, which has been for sale since 2001, according to one of the sources, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity. The source also said Wagner would become Landmark's chief executive, but declined to disclose a sale price.

Landmark Theatres, the nation's largest art-house chain, features first-run independent and foreign films, restored classics and nontraditional films in 54 theaters representing 185 screens in 14 states, the company said.

The chain has struggled since 2000 when its parent company, Dallas-based Silver Cinemas International Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The troubled chain was later part of an $80 million sale to Toronto-based Onex Corp., the parent company of Loews Cineplex. The deal fell apart, however, because of antitrust concerns.

Cuban and Wagner made their mark in Dallas as co-founders of Broadcast.com Inc., one of the biggest success stories of the dot-com boom. Yahoo Inc. bought the Dallas startup in 1999 for nearly $6 billion.

A few months later, Cuban bought the Mavericks from Ross Perot Jr. in a transaction that valued the team at $280 million.

Cuban and Wagner also share investments in Rysher Entertainment, a major film library; Magnolia Pictures of Dallas, which aims to set up a distribution chain for art house films; and Immortal Entertainment, a new California production company.

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On the Web

www.landmarktheatres.com

Broadway Theaters To Be Wheelchair Accessible

The Shubert Organization and the federal government have agreed on plans to make 16 Broadway theaters accessible to people with disabilities, officials said Thursday.

The plans, already under way, will bring the landmark theaters into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. All 16 are owned and operated by Shubert.

The organization has begun installing wheelchair seating and fully accessible restrooms, entrances and exits. Ticket windows, concession areas and drinking fountains are also being made wheelchair-accessible.

The ADA compliance plans are spelled out in two consent decrees with the government _ documents that settle lawsuits brought simultaneously by federal prosecutors.

U.S. Attorney James Comey and Shubert officials planned a midday press conference Thursday to discuss details of the plans.

Shubert's 16 theaters include the Shubert Theatre on 44th Street, where a revival of the musical "Gypsy" is playing.

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