Burbank Stumped Over Starlight Amphitheatre

Times Staff Writer

The Burbank City Council has indicated again that it is not sure what to do with the Starlight Amphitheatre.

A lengthy discussion at Tuesday evening's council meeting failed to produce approval of any of the proposals from two individuals and an organization wanting to lease the open-air facility next summer. Citing the troubled history of the amphitheater, most council members appeared reluctant to authorize any type of entertainment, even a schedule consisting mostly of orchestral "pops" music.

After motions were offered to approve two of the bidders, with only one reaching a vote, council members said they would reconsider the matter next week.

The last promoter for the Starlight filed for relief under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy codes, and no major events were staged at the Starlight last summer.

No Second for Motion

At Tuesday's council meeting, Mayor Mary Lou Howard moved that a contract be awarded to the Los Angeles Pops Orchestra, a nonprofit organization that proposed staging a season of dance and pops concerts. But no one seconded her motion.

Burbank Parks and Recreation officials had recommended that the council approve the orchestra's use of the amphitheater, even though their recommendation said that the orchestra most likely would "not generate a significant amount of revenue" for the city.

Council members Michael Hastings and Mary Kelsey both proposed leasing the facility to Tim Pinch, who said he would stage performances "ranging all the way from a Glen Campbell concert to a UNICEF live radio benefit." But the other three council members voted against their motion.

When his three colleagues voted against allowing Pinch to operate the amphitheater, Hastings held up his hands in exasperation and asked, "Well, what do you want to do with the Starlight?" The other council members did not respond.

Third Proposal

None of the council members voiced any support for the third proposal for use of the Starlight. The bidder, Kevin Singerman, initially wanted the city to spend at least $1.5 million on improvements at the amphitheater so that he could attract prominent entertainers. But Singerman told the council Tuesday that he would pay for the improvements himself.

Councilman Robert Bowne said he is concerned about traffic through residential neighborhoods that would result if popular performers appear at the facility, which can accommodate 6,000 spectators. Howard said she was "gun-shy" about the city's continued attempts to turn the Starlight into a commercially successful facility such as the Greek Theatre.

One such attempt backfired in the late 1970s when the city barred its leaseholder, Cinevision, from staging rock concerts. A Los Angeles Superior Court jury this year ruled that the ban was unconstitutional and ordered the city to pay $4.6 million to Cinevision.

Joint Season Considered

The council considered having Pinch and the orchestra put on a joint season at the Starlight, but Councilman Al Dossin argued that such a collaboration would be similar to a "shotgun wedding" because the two bidders did not know one another and had different goals.

Officials of the Santa Monica-based orchestra said they wanted a permanent home and that they preferred to stage their own season without Pinch's assistance.

Pinch told the council that he would be the sole operator of the Starlight and would subcontract its use to other promoters who would stage the events.

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