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Embattled Roanoke Rapids Theatre gets new management

Posted May 8, 2008

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— A Myrtle Beach, S.C., management company will take over operations at the Roanoke Rapids Theatre, the city of Roanoke Rapids announced Thursday.

Gilmore Entertainment will assume responsibilities of management, show production, ticketing and operations of the $21.5 million, 1,500-seat entertainment complex along Interstate 95.

"We are excited about the possibilities that an organization such as Gilmore Entertainment brings to our project," Roanoke Rapids Mayor Drewery Beale said in a news release issued Thursday. "Their expertise and experience are well known throughout the entertainment industry."

The agreement, as stated in a letter of intent, has the city paying Gilmore Entertainment $500,000, Beale said.

Separate from the agreement, City Manager Phyllis Lee said, Carolina Crossroads developers have agreed to pay half of that for the first two years.

City leaders are hopeful the firm will start work within the next 60 days, once the contract is signed.

The year-old theater has been troubled in recent months by management.

In December, Roanoke Rapids officials cut ties with country music singer Randy Parton, the theater's former namesake, who was brought in to jump-start the operation, which was meant to boost the city's struggling economy.

Parton was stripped of his management duties and his salary slashed after the theater failed to meet projected revenue and attendance numbers. Accusations that he misused funds and appeared intoxicated before a show led the city to cut ties with him.

Boston-based UGL Unicco, brought in after Parton, terminated its management contract with Roanoke Rapids in February, claiming the city owed the firm more than $100,000.

Since then, the city has managed the theater independently. It has lost more than $1 million since then, including costs of buying out Parton's contract. Beale has said theater attendance has improved but till is not at an acceptable level.

"We've been beat to death over this theater," Beale said.

Gilmore Entertainment President David Olive said he feels the company can bring a lot to the table.

“We have seasoned production and management teams that are second to none and can move quickly and efficiently into all of those areas," he said. "We also have a whole lot of loyal fans who drive up and down I-95 regularly.”

The firm, which owns and operates the Carolina Opry in Myrtle Beach, warned that boosting theater attendance and profits at the theater could be "an uphill battle that will not be won for several years" because there is not a major tourist destination surrounding it.

"Creating an audience for a theater so far from any urban area or other major tourist attractions is not something that can happen overnight," said Calvin Gilmore, the firm's chairman.

"We don’t have any silver bullets, but we are willing to step up and try to help them get it rolling," he continued.


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  • Shadow213 May 9, 2008

    seriously, why do the people in RR seem to think this is going to work? understandably many RR citizens seem to get all defensive when someone says "RR is in the middle of nowhere." But really...it is! (hint: if it weren't, more people would go there) I'm sure it's a cute small town to live in but it's just not on my list of places to visit. Sorry.

  • Heel from Hell May 8, 2008

    Thanks for the info. I thought it odd for Boston to play at the R&R Home for Hootin and Hollerin.

    Didn't .38 Special change their name to "Thirty-Eight Special" to separate their name from guns? Well...at least they're tryin'!

  • dohicky May 8, 2008

    Still can't understand why you have to pay someone who is not living up to a contract to let you terminate them. Might as well make them mow the yard or something. At least you would be getting something for your money.

  • Pineview Style May 8, 2008

    "first of all styx and boston are not going to the RR theater they will be at carolina crossroads."

    That is correct.

    "Second of all so called mayor Beale made the comment after 38 special was there that that type of band is not what they need there."

    I don't understand what that statement is supposed to mean. Do the powers that be think that the people in the area and the potential visitors only listen to country. I used to live in RR. I listen to rock n roll. That includes Boston & Styx....

  • ghimmy47 May 8, 2008

    Those clowns in Roanoke Rapids want The Grand Old Opry in a month. Watch them dump this group too.

  • bassntbyting May 8, 2008

    first of all styx and boston are not going to the RR theater they will be at carolina crossroads. Second of all so called mayor Beale made the comment after 38 special was there that that type of band is not what they need there. they sold more tickets to that show than about any show so far. hiring the grand ole opera people will take care of them shows. Way to go MR> BEALE bassntbyting aka robert king

  • Heel from Hell May 8, 2008

    As Pineview pointed out ^^ Boston and Styx are booked there in August. I wonder if UGL Unicco terminated before/after the booking? Boston (the band) coming to a Roanoke Rapids venue managed by a Boston company...maybe I'm making too much of it. Hope they still make it...could be a good show.

    Although I wish Brad Delp hadn't committed suicide last year and Tommy Shaw and Dennis DeYoung were still with Styx. Would have been a coup for the place if the bands weren't shadows of their former-selves.

  • Pineview Style May 8, 2008

    "Hope they book something decent, I'd like to check this venue out."

    I hear Boston & Styx will be there in August!

  • uncw40oz May 8, 2008

    I am so tired of hearing about this stupid story! WHO CARES ?

  • dryhumper May 8, 2008

    Congratulations to Mr. Beale for winning the 'Local Yokel' award.