$15,000 Sought : Starlight Operator’s Debts Cited

Times Staff Writer

The newly appointed manager of Burbank’s troubled Starlight Amphitheatre failed to pay salaries and other costs resulting from a 1981 film he was producing that was never made, court documents show.

Last month, attorneys for the Directors Guild of America filed papers in Los Angeles Superior Court asking that Michael Seemann, now president of World Entertainment Services, be ordered to pay almost $15,000 in salaries, union costs and attorneys’ fees in a case involving the shutdown of production of “The Killing of Georgie,” a movie that was to be filmed in New York.

Seemann wrote several checks to the film’s location manager, Mark Indig, that bounced, documents indicated. He also failed to pay $237,500 owed to the film’s director for at least four years after the movie was canceled, according to the documents.

Appointed by Council


Seemann was appointed by the Burbank City Council last week to manage the city-owned Starlight Amphitheatre, plagued for years by financial and legal difficulties.

Under the two-year contract, World Entertainment Services will pay Burbank a minimum of $25,000 this year for leasing the facility and a minimum of $40,000 for the 1990 season. The firm must pay the city $1 per person when an event’s ticket price is more than $15, and 75 cents per person when the ticket price is less than $15.

The DGA--a union representing directors, unit production managers and assistant directors of theatrical films--has tried since 1985 to get Seemann to pay the salary of Indig, who worked on the film while it was in pre-production, records show.

Kent Bridwell, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge pro tem, ruled in October, 1985, that Seemann and two companies with which he was an executive--Meta-Film Associates and TKOG Associates--owed at least $5,140 in salary and $1,387 in interest to Indig, along with $51.40 per month after May, 1983, when the debt first went unpaid.

Seemann and the two companies were also ordered by Bridwell to pay $5,539 to the guild on behalf of Indig and the movie’s unit production manager, Tom Kane, to cover payments for the guild’s pension plan, a health and welfare plan and a producer training program trust fund.

Seemann identified himself in a letter to Kane in 1981 as the executive producer of “The Killing of Georgie.” The letter said that Seemann would be personally responsible for financial obligations of the production if Meta-Film did not meet them. The guild said TKOG and Meta-Film were basically the same company, according to court records.

Seemann and the two companies were ordered in 1985 by a union arbitrator to pay $237,500 owed the film’s director, Waris Hussein, and Hussein’s company, Trigon Productions. Hussein was hired by TKOG Associates in February, 1981, to direct the movie, but was only paid $12,500, court documents show.

Burbank City Atty. Douglas C. Holland said he had heard that the dispute with Hussein was settled, but that he could not provide details.


Declined Comment

DGA officials declined to comment on the dispute, saying the case is pending. Court documents show that Seemann did not attend the arbitration hearings and failed to respond to DGA notices to pay the judgments.

Seemann failed to return phone calls to his office.

Holland said city officials conducted a limited background check on Seemann, but the investigation dealt mainly with World Entertainment Services’ management of the Sandstone Amphitheatre, an 18,000-seat facility in Bonner Springs, Kan.


“What we were interested in was the strength of World Entertainment Services, and our review suggested that they were fiscally fine,” Holland said. “When the city is doing business with outfits, we don’t go through the complete credit histories of every individual involved.”

Stephen W. Helvey, Burbank’s assistant city manager, said, “We don’t conduct a financial investigation of someone providing a service to us.” Helvey said he thinks World Entertainment Services can meet its financial commitment to the city.

More Information

Holland said he requested on Monday that Seemann provide additional information regarding the non-payment of salaries. He said he had not received that information by late Wednesday.


Mayor Al F. Dossin said he did not know of Seemann’s background before Wednesday. “The council was relying upon the city attorney and staff to make its decision,” Dossin said. “I’m not sure whether this conduct would have affected the contract. But I really do want this looked into.”

Ironically, Holland was ordered by the council Tuesday to determine what the legal ramifications would be if the city wanted to get out of its contract with World Entertainment Services. The order was prompted by the complaints of several residents who fear that crowds at concerts would disrupt nearby residential neighborhoods.

The Starlight is in the Verdugo Mountains northeast of Burbank and can only be reached via residential streets.

Seemann told the council last week that 12 shows are planned this summer and 18 next summer at the theater, which has a seating capacity of 6,000.