ANAHEIM — After eight weeks in business, the Freedman Forum Concert Theatre has decided to end its booking alliance with the House of Blues, the hot nightclub in West Hollywood, and to make its own rotating stage and 2,500 in-the-round seats available to any concert promoter who wants to book the hall.
Another change: Bruce A. Kahn, a key figure in reopening the Freedman Forum after it was dark for two years, no longer is part of its management team.
Blaine Greenberg, the venue's board chairman and main financial backer, said Friday that his and the House of Blues' booking staffs decided mutually to dissolve their exclusive booking arrangement. Under the initial agreement, Greenberg said, the House of Blues was to have booked at least 72 concerts for the Freedman Forum this year. So far, only five have taken place; six are scheduled.
Greenberg, an attorney in Los Angeles, said the House of Blues has agreed to book 10 additional shows by the end of September; after that, the House of Blues will be in the same position as any other promoter: able to rent the theater on a show-by-show basis.
Kevin Morrow, talent buyer for the 1,000-capacity House of Blues, could not be reached, and his assistant, John Pantle, had no comment.
Greenberg said he was dissatisfied with the number of concerts booked by Morrow, adding that most of them have been geared toward a half-capacity setup rather than full houses.
"They were focusing on the [Freedman Forum] more as if it was an extension of their own club and booking a lot of half-house shows," Greenberg said. "It wasn't a particularly effective use because the [overhead] costs are almost the same in a half-house as in a full-house configuration."
At both half capacity and full capacity, the Freedman Forum (known as the Celebrity Theatre under the operators who ran it from 1987-94) is the only regularly available pop venue in Orange County geared to mid-size concerts too big for the clubs and too small for Irvine Meadows or the Pond of Anaheim.
In an interview on the theater's opening night, Jan. 27, Morrow had said that some acts were shying away from playing full-house shows at the Freedman Forum because they dislike in-the-round performance.
Greenberg said he doesn't think the in-the-round issue is significant, but "we're working to be as flexible as we can to meet the needs of everybody who wants to be in the building. We do have plans that allow us to reconfigure it [as] a proscenium theater that will seat about 1,800."
Although the schedule has been sparse, Greenberg said, three of the five concerts staged so far have been moneymakers. The biggest success was a 2,500-seat sellout by Mexican balladeer Jose Jose. "It demonstrated the theater is a wonderful place to do Spanish-language performances," Greenberg said. "We anticipate doing a great number of shows" working with promoters who specialize in the Latino pop market.
Greenberg said he has contacted such major Southern California concert promoters as Avalon Attractions, the Nederlander Organization, Goldenvoice and Bill Silva Presents, telling them the Freedman Forum is now available to all comers. Those reached last week said they would consider putting on shows at the Freedman Forum but did not greet the new open-door policy as an irresistible invitation.
Avalon vice president Randy Brogna said the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, opened in 1993 a few miles over the border in Los Angeles County, has "gobbled up a big portion" of the shows that might play at the Freedman Forum. "I think there's an opportunity for [the Freedman Forum] to do some percentage of shows, but I don't perceive it [will] be as active" as it was when Avalon served as exclusive promoter for two years during the early 1990s under the old Celebrity Theatre regime.
Meanwhile, Greenberg said, he and Kahn--who last year formed a partnership to launch the Freedman Forum--"both decided it would probably be best that we part ways." Greenberg declined to be more specific. "It pretty well was" a mutual decision, confirmed Kahn, adding that his departure had been "coming on" for a while. He also declined to discuss the matter in detail.
Kahn, the former owner of a concert club in Dallas, oversaw daily operations at the Freedman Forum until March 13. Greenberg's brother, Todd, has been in charge since; he lived in Tampa, Fla., and worked in banking and small-business consulting before joining the Freedman Forum management team in November.
Kahn said he will stay in the concert business and that he aims to launch new venues in both Orange and Los Angeles counties.