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A tale of 2 ‘Showtimes’

Sep 2, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Audiences, stations and advertisers will have to decide this fall where the true appeal of a show lies-with its producers, talent and time slots or with its name and venue. And the Superior Court in Los Angeles may have to make a bigger decision about a long-running urban hour.
Western International will shift the site of what was once “It’s Showtime at the Apollo” to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. After nearly a decade and a half on the air the show will be renamed “Showtime.” Returning for the new season will be the show’s producer, Inner City, and host Rudy Rush along with Kiki Shepard, Ray Chew and the Crew.
With 85 percent of the country recommitted to the series, including WWOR-TV in New York, KCOP-TV in Los Angeles and WCIU-TV in Chicago, the upcoming season promises to be a new chapter in the run of the show, according to executives with distributor Western International.
The show’s departure from the legendary Apollo Theater came after the venue opted to sign a deal giving The Heritage Networks rights to use the venue and the title “It’s Showtime at the Apollo” to create its own version of the show. Heritage President Frank Mercado-Valdes brought in DePasse Entertainment to produce the series, which cleared WNBC-TV, New York, and KNBC-TV, Los Angeles, for its launch.
“We are extremely proud to get the rights to `It’s Showtime at the Apollo’ and couldn’t be happier about Suzanne DePasse and her entertainment company producing the show,” Mr. Mercado-Valdes said. “It’s also an amazing bonus that we’ve already got NBC in the top markets to air the show.”
Where the advertisers and audience will go remains to be seen. Both programs will air musical and comedic acts, but conflict between the two distributors has caused Western to file a lawsuit against Heritage claiming that Heritage is trying to convince stations, ad agencies and advertisers to abandon their business relationships with Western.
The suit also accuses DePasse of making “false statements to the press and others that DePasse is entitled to produce a television show that will be broadcast during [Western’s] clearances.”
“This is a great opportunity to create a new energy around our show,” said Chris Lancey, president of Western International. “I am confident that the results will ultimately be successful as we continue to bring the spirit of Harlem to America.”
The defendants Heritage and DePasse have widely denied any wrongdoing in the matter, but both parties are dedicating heavy resources to the case. Western is seeking $30 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in exemplary damages and injunctive relief.
Western’s contract with most of its stations, a copy of which was obtained by Electronic Media, mandates that the distributor will control the weekly hour as long as a similar format is put in its place. With a successful history and a crew already working the series, Western opted to continue production of the same show, leaving only the location and name behind as the series prepares to travel outside the historic venue.