Burbank city officials, although disappointed in the Starlight Amphitheatre's 1986 season, said last week that the facility's new manager has performed better than his predecessors and that they are willing to go along with him for at least another year.
"I think, overall, it was a better start than we've experienced in the past," said Burbank Park and Recreation Director Richard R. Inga, administrator of the beleaguered city-owned facility. "It was a good step in the right direction."
There were 15 entertainment events on the Starlight stage from June 1 to Oct. 31. They ranged from a performance by Jack Mack and the Heart Attack to a series of big-band concerts. Also, the Starlight was used for a high school graduation and a weeklong Halloween festival.
City officials, who in previous years had tried to keep activity at the Starlight down because of complaints from nearby residents about noise and traffic, said last week that they had hoped there would be more events at the Starlight this year. They complained that most of the seats were empty even when performers did appear--the result, they said, of insufficient publicity.
Under his contract with the city, manager Tim Pinch is required to pay 5% of his gross receipts for three years, or a minimum of $15,000 in 1986, $25,000 in 1987 and $35,000 in 1988. The city's annual cost for maintaining the Starlight and its grounds is about $25,000.
City officials said they still hope that the enthusiasm of 33-year-old Pinch will help revive the popularity and respectability of the Starlight, which has been referred to as the city's "white elephant."
"I would give him a 'C' this year because he's just a first-year student," said Michael Regan, a member of the city's park and recreation board. "But I want a more steady season next year. That's what I expect, and I won't stand for anything less. I don't want to see any big voids in the schedule like this year."
Councilwoman Mary Lou Howard said she had hoped that Pinch would book more middle-of-the-road concerts.
'Not What I Had in Mind'
"The kinds of concerts he had up at the Starlight were not exactly what I had in mind," Howard said.
But Councilman Al F. Dossin said he had "received a lot of letters talking about how good the big- band concerts were. There were no complaints about noise or traffic from any of the residents."
Pinch, who had no experience managing an entertainment facility when he was awarded the contract last year, said he is now more aware of what the city wants and what kinds of events will work at the facility.
"I wasn't after numbers this summer," Pinch said. "The enjoyment of the people was there. I earned the confidence of city departments who were watching me to see how it was going to go. It was a time for me and the city to feel each other out. Things will be a lot more busy next year."
In recent years, the 6,000-seat theater has been the object of costly legal battles, bad publicity and criticism from people in surrounding neighborhoods about concertgoers and noise from rock concerts. The Starlight's scarred history and the city's opposition to rock concerts there continued to haunt Pinch as he struggled to book acts for the summer and fall.
3 Concerts Canceled
Pinch also had trouble securing adequate insurance for the Starlight, Inga said, and three shows were canceled late in the season because of what Pinch called exorbitant costs for police protection and fire control.
Still, park and recreation officials acknowledged that Pinch had been able to do what previous Starlight operators had failed to accomplish: present a range of innocuous programming that catered to the Burbank community.
"The season got off to a slow start, but the activity that Tim put on during October is reflective of what the community would like to see," Inga said. "Those shows did suffer from a lack of adequate publicity, but that could be corrected."
Inga added that the city had not expected a "solid slate of concerts all summer."
Automatic Renewal Clause
A provision in Pinch's contract with the city provides him with an automatic two-year renewal clause for the Starlight's operation if he adheres to city requirements regarding crowd control and administration.
Previous operators failed to draw major entertainers to the Starlight. Pinch's immediate predecessor, Tom Griffin, managed to present only three concerts during the summer of 1984. Just before the start of last year's season, he filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code to allow his firm to repay almost $180,000 in debts.
The city terminated Griffin's contract and did not hire anyone for the 1985 season.
The Chicago-based promotion firm of Eric/Chandler, which managed the facility in 1983, failed to book any shows after being instructed by city officials not to bring in rock acts deemed "disruptive." Spokesmen for the firm blamed adverse publicity and competition from other area concert arenas for their inability to book concerts.