Showman Purchases Assets Of Variety Scenic

Showman Fabricators, the Brooklyn-based scene shop, has substantially purchased all the assets of Variety Scenic Studios. The deal was announced on July 22.

Variety, which opened in 1970, and was owned by Bobby Hutchinson, has long been a mainstay of Broadway, building scenery for such musicals as Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Who's Tommy, Damn Yankees, The Secret Garden, and Crazy for You. Other recent clients include touring productions such as Barney's Great Adventure, Goosebumps, and Rugrats, and such television projects as Live with Regis and Kathie Lee and the cable channels CNBC, MSNBC, and The Food Network.

Showman, which was founded in 1986, is co-owned by Mike Cioffi and Bob Usdin; it builds scenery for museums, cable networks and retail operations; recent projects include work for the American Museum of Natural History; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; MSNBC, and the retail store The NBC Experience, located in Rockefeller Center.

Current Variety projects at the time of purchase (which will now become Showman projects) include the new Off Broadway musical Contact (to be staged at Lincoln Center's Mitzi Newhouse Theatre) and the national tour of Fosse. Both shops were already set to collaborate on the new ABC game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Both shops will remain open for the summer; the plan is to move Variety personnel into the Showman facility, located on Imlay Avenue in Red Hook, by Se ptember. Hutchinson will be in charge of carpentry shop operations. Nancy Orr, Variety's union charge, will be in charge of all union scenic work at Showman. John Prisco will continue to handle sales for network and cable television. Showman will maintain much of Variety's rental stock, in combination with its own inventory. In addition, Showman is completing a renovation of its shop that will provide 35% more space. The combined entities make Showman Fabricators the second-largest scene shop in the metropolitan area, with over 130 employees.

Concurrently with the purchase, Showman signed a letter of adherence with USA Local 829 to ensure that all union scenic artist work could continue at both shops without interruption (Showman has been in negotiation with Local 829 for some time). Paul Moore, Local 829's national business agent, and Michael McBride, the union's business rep, proffered the letter of adherence; Showman has agreed to take part in negotiations in September, when the current industry-wide scenic suppliers' agreement expires. Peter Fitzgerald, business agent for IATSE Local 4, hailed the purchase, as it preserves IA jobs in the Brooklyn-Queens area.

Speaking of the purchase, Usdin, Showman's president, says, "We felt this was a great time to make a great move. The two shops work in the same industries, yet have different strengths off of which each plays. We look forward to assimilating the skills that their employees have honed to the skills that our workers represent." Adds Cioffi, the company's vice president, "The addition of Bobby Hutchinson to our staff, as well as Nancy Orr and the pool of labor they have working with them, will increase our levels of productivity while allowing us to continue to provide the service our customers expect. We want to continue to provide the personal attention to each project that has long been our trademark; now, we'll provide it to more customers and more projects." For his part, Hutchinson praised Usdin and Cioffi as being "young and energetic."

"The most difficult aspect of this transaction," concludes Usdin, "is not being able to use the Variety Scenic name. We hated to let it go, but for various legal and accounting reasons, we could not longer use it. It's a great name and deservedly well known in the industry; we can only hope that all of the good things that Variety has stood for will accrue to the excellent reputation that Showman enjoys."

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