Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Oakland's Paramount Losing Money, Lining Pockets

Tue, Oct 24, 2006 at 3:23 PM

Paramount Theatre board member Rene Boisvert emailed the Express today saying the city-owned theater is losing tens of thousands of dollars while increasing executive pay and cutting shows. Read the whole letter after the jump ... and watch out for those "shananagons" -- similar to the polygon, but much louder and deadlier.

OAKLAND PARAMOUNT THEATRE...BOARD MEETING SHANANAGONS

At the recent September 27th Paramount Theatre Board of Director's annual meeting, a number of exciting events took place. Most outside the eye of city officials or the general public. Let's take a look ....

First, for the 2006/2007 fiscal year, the Paramount has posted a loss of $124,651.

Second, the Board elected a new President and Vice President as board officers. Whereas both board members have been on the Paramount Board for some time, prior to the election they had a combined 40% attendance record to board meetings in the calendar year 2006.

Third, the Board gave their General Manager a $20,000 raise making her annual salary $110,000. And in addition, they backdated the raise to April 1st effectively giving her nearly a $55,000 bonus.

Fourth, the Board attempted to not renew the term of a board member in good standing in full violation of their Corporate By Laws. A board member who was Vice President and in line to be elected President. All in an attempt to preserve the status quo and quiet his outspoken voice to the under performing ways the Board and Staff have chosen to operate the Theatre. And who had personally been responsible for saving/earning the City of Oakland upwards of $3 million dollars to date in his efforts on behalf of the theatre.

Fifth, when the Paramount's Business Development Committee handed out evaluation forms at the annual meeting to seek feedback and assess the quality of the board meetings, the efforts of the individual board members, and overall value of work achieved by the Board. The general response by the Board was the rolling of their eyes and general lack of interest. The forms were filed away for another time.

Lastly, the Board operates the Paramount Theatre per an Operating Agreement with the City of Oakland. In reviewing the Operating Agreement, there are no less than nine violations of this Agreement by the Theatre Board and Staff. Important violations such as that the Theatre on an annual basis must submit to the City Manager how to best improve operations to increase the revenues. The Board and Staff have no business plan nor written goals from which they use to operate the facility. On an annual basis the Paramount has had financial audits, but has never had an operational audit. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are unrealized every year.

Per the most recent State of the Corporation for the Paramount, the number of performances are down 32% from its recent high in 2001/2002 (from 160 to 109). With the industry always in fluctuation, current booking levels at the Theatre dropping, the Theatre not living up to it's potential, and let's not forget the Fox Theatre about to be heavy on its tail, the Paramount Theatre under its current leadership is extremely vulnerable to what lies ahead.

Though this story will be unpopular and uncomfortable for some, the theatre is a public entity and should be run in the open and for the benefit of the City. The goal is writing this piece is to have the City Officials take a second look at the Operating Agreement and Corporate By Laws and make 100% sure that the current Board and Staff (or someone new) that they live up to their promises, commitments, and top industry standards for the benefit of the City of Oakland. - David Downs

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