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Lyric fans get partial refund

The Baltimore Sun

About 70 Baltimore-area theater lovers who were left in the lurch when they bought tickets to shows that abruptly were canceled will receive refunds of about 42 cents on the dollar.

George W. Liebmann, the court-appointed trustee, filed a final distribution notice yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court outlining the proposed liquidation of the remaining assets of Performing Arts Productions, the Baltimore branch of Baci Management Inc.

Before it filed for liquidation under Chapter 7, the Towson-based company founded by Nicholas Litrenta specialized in staging Broadway-style shows at such venues as the Lyric Opera House in Baltimore, the Warner Theatre in Washington and at stages in Norfolk and Richmond, Va.

If there are no objections to the distribution schedule - and Liebmann doesn't expect any - checks to about 70 Lyric patrons would be mailed in 20 days.

"I'm glad we're able to return some money to Baltimore ticket-holders," Liebmann said.

Forty-two percent might not sound like a big distribution, especially to customers who bought a series of tickets they could no longer use.

But it's a much better-than-average result. For instance, hundreds of patrons were left with empty wallets in Virginia when shows in Roanoke and Richmond were called off. Those patrons unlucky enough to have paid cash won't get a penny.

(Patrons who purchased their tickets with a credit card were luckier, as most charge cards have refund procedures if the customer paid for goods or services he or she never received.)

Liebmann estimated that the average distribution will be between $150 and $200.

Baci filed for bankruptcy in March under two separate petitions, noting debts of $545,000 in the Baltimore-area filing, and liabilities of $4.9 million in the Virginia case.

The Baltimore-area patrons were relatively fortunate, Liebmann said, because there were no secured creditors who by law must be paid first. In the Virginia filing, secured creditors will swallow up Baci's few remaining assets.

Lender repaid first

A secured creditor often is a lending institution, such as a bank or mortgage company. If the customer defaults, the bank gets paid first out of whatever monies remain.

Liebmann said that Litrenta did not resist efforts to recoup funds for the Lyric's customers.

"He's been cooperative, in the sense of helping us identify assets to be liquidated, and in providing whatever information we requested," Liebmann said.

But, while individual ticket-buyers will get their money back, the Lyric, one of many unsecured creditors, will have to swallow a loss of more than $70,000.

When the bankruptcy was declared, the management of the historic venue was left scrambling.

On the one hand, the canceled show meant the Lyric didn't receive revenues it had been counting on. And on the other hand, the venue's management had to contend with unhappy theatergoers, who didn't always distinguish between Baci (the booking agent) and the Lyric (the hall where the shows were to have been staged).

Sandy Richmond, the Lyric's executive director, said the venue voluntarily decided to reimburse disgruntled customers by providing vouchers to future shows. This season, he said, the Lyric has given away tickets worth more than $35,000.

'Loyal patrons'

"We didn't have any legal responsibility to do that," he said, "but we wanted to do something to help Many people have taken advantage of these credits. We are very pleased to maintain them as loyal patrons and subscribers."

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