Theater filing bankruptcy blames Atlanta company

The American Musical Theatre of San Jose says it is filing bankruptcy after losing $225,000 it invested with Atlanta's Theater of the Stars. The money was supposed to have been used for a co-production of Disney's "Tarzan," which was to open at the Fox Theatre in January and move to California in February.

"I'm devastated. I've had to lay off my whole company here," Michael Miller, CEO and executive producer of the San Jose playhouse, said Tuesday. After planning the co-production of "Tarzan" for more than a year, Miller said he was informed Nov. 18 by Theater of the Stars President Nick Manos that the show was off.

"He told me they didn't have our money. They didn't have the show. They had laid off all the actors and creative team, and they were sorry," Miller said. He said his organization — which had sold $800,000 in tickets to "Tarzan" and is carrying a $2.5 million deficit — had no choice but to file Chapter 11.

"It's kind of a knock-out blow for us," Miller said.

Michael A. Jenkins, president of Dallas Summer Musicals, said his organization had also invested $225,000 in the "Tarzan" project and was seeking legal counsel.

"Certainly, it will affect us," he said. " It's a significant amount of money."

In a statement late Tuesday afternoon, Theater of the Stars apologized to "patrons, subscribers and management of each of the theaters affected" by the decision to scratch the show.

"However, cancellations are a part of the fabric of the theater business," the statement continued, "and we are working with the other theaters on repayment plans for their pre-production advances."

Theater of the Stars did not go public with its plans to cancel "Tarzan" until contacted Tuesday morning by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Manos blamed his theater's decision on the economy.

"The economic turmoil of this fall and the drop-off in ticket sales ... has made it impossible for us to continue with 'Tarzan,' " Manos said, adding that Theater of the Stars hopes to stage "Tarzan" later.

In a news release, Miller said Theater of the Stars had used his "Tarzan" investment on "another production of theirs, which lost a significant amount of money."

Last month, Theater of the Stars staged a sprawling production of Disney's "High School Musical 2."

"The disappearance of the six figures that we paid to Atlanta's Theater of the Stars in good faith coupled with the huge loss of revenues we anticipated from 'Tarzan' was just too much to overcome," Robert Nazarenus, chief financial officer of the San Jose theater, said in the release.

The American Musical Theater of San Jose was founded in 1935 as the San Jose Civic Light Opera Association.

On Tuesday afternoon, Miller told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that lawyers for all the producing entities were trying to negotiate a financial agreement.

"The producers that have been calling me around the country are pretty angry," Miller said. "The general mood has got a lot of four-letter words in it."

Said Manos: "We realize there are other theaters that were affected by this, and we were working with them behind the scenes on solutions. San Jose apparently took matters into its own hands and sent out a press release (on Monday)."

Manos said "Tarzan" ticket holders in Atlanta will get refunds and a replacement show will be announced later, though the musical won't happen in January.

"We are saddened by all this," Manos said. "It was devastating to us, as I'm sure it was to everybody else."

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.