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New Publications for Fall Arts

The demise of Performing Arts magazine has left arts centers scrambling to find another guide. L.A. and Orange County are finalizing contracts.


Just in time to meet their fall season deadlines, two of Southern California's largest performing arts centers--downtown's Los Angeles Music Center and Orange County Center for the Performing Arts in Costa Mesa--have found new program publishers to replace the defunct Performing Arts magazine.

After more than 35 years of using Performing Arts magazine as the glossy package for their program information, the resident companies of the Los Angeles Music Center--the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Opera, Center Theater Group and the Los Angeles Master Chorale--confirm they are finalizing contracts with a local publisher, Southern California Magazine Group, to provide a new program magazine.

Orange County Center for the Performing Arts has also found a publisher close to home: Todd Bentjen, vice president of marketing and communications for the center, confirmed that the Orange County Register will publish programs for OCPAC, its resident companies and presenters: the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, which oversees the annual Eclectic Orange Festival; Pacific Symphony Orchestra and Opera Pacific.

The decision to find new publishers was made necessary by the recent demise of Performing Arts magazine. In early June, the monthly publication became a casualty of an East Coast publishing coup: Playbill magazine, the program publisher for most Broadway theaters, acquired its longtime archrival, Stagebill.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday July 30, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 10 inches; 360 words Type of Material: Correction
Performing arts--A story in Saturday's Calendar about new program publishers for performing arts centers mistakenly omitted Pacific Chorale from a list of resident companies of the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

Stagebill had purchased Performing Arts magazine last year, and Performing Arts went to Playbill as part of a package deal. Performing Arts will go out of business Sept. 1, although Playbill may exercise its right to use the Playbill or Performing Arts names for new publications at some future date.

The coup left theaters scrambling for a new program publisher in time for their 2002-03 seasons, most of which begin in September.

The new, as-yet-untitled magazine for the Music Center will be distributed at the Music Center's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Mark Taper Forum and Ahmanson theaters, as well as Hollywood Bowl and Walt Disney Concert Hall, when it opens in 2003. The publication will make its first appearance Sept. 4 at Chandler Pavilion for Los Angeles Opera's season opener, Puccini's "Girl of the Golden West."

Southern California Magazine Group, headed by Jeff Levy, is also the Southern California franchisee of Where magazine, an international publication that provides local entertainment information for hotel guests. Levy's company also publishes guides for some Southern California tourism departments.

Playbill negotiated with Music Center resident companies for the contract, but director of marketing and communication Catherine Babcock said the smaller size of Playbill was a major deterrent; Playbill is about 5 inches by 8 inches, compared with the about 8-by-10-inch Performing Arts format. "We felt a larger format, with a larger font, is what our audiences have come to expect," she said.

Levy called the new venture a logical offshoot of Where magazine, which includes local performing arts information. He said he has already hired the key advertising and sales executives from Performing Arts to work on the new publication, although he has not absorbed the old editorial staff.

Like Performing Arts, the new magazine will eventually hire a staff of editors who will work with freelance writers to provide stories about arts and entertainment. Levy would not specify the length of his contracts with the Music Center but said they are "long term."

Meanwhile, other area theaters are also opting for arrangements other than Playbill. The Pasadena Playhouse, Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and UCLA Center for the Performing Arts will publish their own programs as a stopgap measure until another option can be explored.

"A lot of venues don't have much choice at this point, it's such an impending deadline," said Nicole Cavazos, public information officer for the UCLA center, which opens its fall season Sept. 13 with the Kronos Quartet. "Our publishing knight in shining armor has not appeared."

Said Brian Colburn, general manager of Pasadena Playhouse: "We're now in the publishing business, for the foreseeable future. We're going to see how we do with it; we have a few more options, a little bit more flexibility when we print our own program; we can give more space for recognition for our donors and sponsors. Our goal is to break even, but also meet some institutional objectives. We're not going to make any rush decisions, but if we have a good experience, we'll go with it."

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