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Playhouse Eliminates 19 Seats : Theater: By reducing the Moulton’s capacity, the Laguna Beach troupe avoids paying higher royalty rates.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Laguna Playhouse has reduced the capacity of its Moulton Theatre from 418 to 399 seats to avoid paying higher royalty rates levied last year by one of the theater industry’s major play-licensing agencies.

The Playhouse boarded 19 balcony seats, according to executive director Richard A. Stein, as the result of negotiations with Samuel French Inc., which controls the rights to hundreds of plays and had raised the royalty rates for large amateur community theater companies in California.

By eliminating those seats, Stein said, the Moulton now “falls within a threshold” enabling the Playhouse to continue paying between $50 and $100 per performance, instead of the higher rate of roughly 5% or more of gross ticket sales. The Playhouse has about 8,000 subscribers.

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Late last year French notified the Playhouse it would have to pay the higher rate, about the same as that paid by such regional theaters as South Coast Repertory, which has more than 20,000 subscribers and a 507-seat Mainstage.

The agency’s reassessment cost the Playhouse $9,000 instead of $1,400 for Neil Simon’s “Broadway Bound” and $6,500 instead of $1,400 for Tina Howe’s “Painting Churches.”

This season the Playhouse schedule includes two properties licensed by French: Jim Leonard Jr.’s “The Diviners,” which ran from Oct. 15 to Nov. 10, and George S. Kaufman’s and Moss Hart’s “Once in a Lifetime,” to run from May 12 to June 7.

The Moulton down-sizing has resulted in a savings of thousands of dollars, Stein said.

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