Local News

Theater's Management Cuts Ties With Roanoke Rapids

Posted February 18, 2008 12:36 p.m. EST
Updated February 18, 2008 6:46 p.m. EST

— The Boston-based company managing The Roanoke Rapids Theatre announced Monday it terminated its contract with the city, effective immediately.

UGL Unicco said the city, for a second time, did not pay the company more than $100,000 owed to it for direct expenses of operating the theater.

"We regret the situation – it is a fine theater, one we leave in dramatically better terms than where we found it less than 90 days ago," the company said in a statement, "but our hands are tied."

City Manager Phyllis Lee, however, said the $100,000 was supposed to be a payment Unicco wanted to continue running the theater for the next few weeks as it finishes out its agreement with the city.

"On the issue of finances, the city felt it was not in our best interest to advance Unicco an additional $113,000 to serve as our agent for another week," the city said in a news release issued late Monday afternoon. "The residents of this city asked us to take control and make sure their tax dollars were protected and that’s what we’ve done."

The city also said it has offered all theater employees the opportunity to continue work in their current positions and has asked Unicco to release those employees under a non-compete clause.

Last Tuesday, the city decided to terminate efforts to set up a longer agreement, calling the decision one based on "strictly dollars and cents."

The City Council decided to serve the company with a 30-day notice to terminate, and the city was looking to work with the company as it transitioned. Who would manage the theater next was unclear.

"Our plan is to conduct business as usual and continue to book shows," the city said Monday.

Unicco said Monday that its agreement with the city makes it responsible for financial activity after default of payment.

"While we want to support the theater and participate in an orderly transition, as is our company’s operational style, we cannot assume any more of their financial obligations and liabilities."

The city brought in Unicco to manage the $21.5 million entertainment complex in November after it failed to meet projected revenue and attendance numbers under entertainer Randy Parton.

Under Unicco's direction, the theater made $17,000 profit from the end of November through the end of December, according to the financial records, though that derived partly from the city not paying itself rent that it would have expected from former manager and star Randy Parton.

Lee said last week that the city is looking at several options after Unicco, including whether to hire a new management firm and the possibility of a city department's managing the theater at the Carolina Crossroads development site.