Production Resource Group, the collective of lighting, sound, and scenery companies that includes Fourth Phase Lighting, has purchased Four Star Lighting, the troubled New York supply house that has been hobbled by recent troubles with bankruptcy.
According to Jere Harris, head of PRG, the purchase was made with some reluctance. “The bank solicited all kinds of buyers,” he says. “Three people put in bids but, at the end of the day, nobody put in a qualified bid but us.” A qualified bid, he adds, is one substantiated with a cash deposit.
For years owned and operated by the DeVerna family, Four Star Lighting was purchased in 1998 by Matthews Studio Equipment, the Hollywood-based grip manufacturer for the TV and film industries, as part of a diversification that included the purchase of Olesen, the West Coast-based theatrical supplier. However, in April 2000, Matthews declared bankruptcy, placing the future of Four Star in doubt. In March of this year, a consortium bought the assets of most of Matthews’ West Coast properties, but Four Star was not part of that deal.
“We just bought [Four Star’s] equipment,” says Harris, noting that everything will be folded into Fourth Phase, PRG’s lighting division. “The banks will hold onto the revenue [from the current show rentals] and we’ll service their shows, going forward from here.” Overall, he says, “It’s a sad turn of events.” He attributes Four Star’s problems to its aggressive pricing policy, which, resulted in contracts with low to non-existent profit margins: “For example,” he says, “Kiss Me, Kate is designed by Peter Kaczorowski, who also designed The Music Man. Both shows, I would say, have very similar equipment lists, and the value of the equipment almost exactly the same. Darren [DeVerna, of Four Star] did both shows. For Kate, the weekly rental, rounded off, is $4,200. For The Music Man, it’s $8,400. The rentals took place four months apart. Phantom of the Opera, opened in 1988. That show’s rental is $5,000. How could you do a show in 1988 and charge $5,000, then do a show with more equipment 12 years later and charge $1,000 less?”
Four Star supplies and services a significant number of Broadway shows, including Aida, Kiss Me Kate, Blast, The Dinner Party, The Full Monty, and Fosse.
Speaking of Four Star’s remaining staff, he adds, “I hope we’ll hire some of their employees. It’s a small group over there. When there’s a show in the shop, being pulled, they pull in some union guys and when there’s no show, it’s a six- or eight-guy operation. Key people will be offered various positions.”
The deal reduces the number of supply houses competing for Broadway, although Westsun America has established a substantial New York presence this past season.