Wilma Theatre venue management contract ends up in Court

December 2015

Live events industry



The previous and current owners of the Wilma Theatre in Montana are being sued in U.S. District Court by concert promoter Knitting Factory Presents who claims they’ve engaged in “anti-competitive behavior” and the induced termination of  a nine year agreement in July 2014 to exclusively manage the theater and buy talent for it with Simba Entertainment, a company owned solely by then venue owner Rick Wishcamper. Simba Entertainment was to pay Bravo $85,000 each year, plus ticket fees and a percentage of concessions and sponsorship revenue
Knitting Factory Presents (also known as Bravo Entertainment) says it lost at least $609,000, and is seeking to triple those damages to an estimated $2,210,255. The previous owner, Rick Wishcamper, counters that under Knitting Factory Presents’ management, the venue saw steeply increasing losses, a “fiasco” in a critical staff position after general manager after Marcus Duckwitz resigned and his replacement had “serious alcohol issues”, alienated other staff, upset other local companies and left after just four months, and other actions that breached the contract. The current owner, Nick Checota, says Knitting Factory is free to book concerts elsewhere in Missoula besides the Wilma and his Top Hat Lounge (a competing 1,500 venue also owned by Checota). Checota purchased the venue in March from another of Wishcamper’s companies, and then opted to book concerts himself, telling reporters he did not read the earlier contract with Bravo, nor was he bound by it under the contract he signed to purchase the venue
The anti trust claim states that “The acts and agreements of Defendants had the effect of stifling and discouraging competition in the entertainment business in Missoula, Montana, while creating a monopoly to be overcome and for the purposes of fixing or regulating the price or production of entertainment services and talent buying for the Missoula, Montana, market” and the claimant says “Those losses are the result of the loss of ability to compete in the Missoula, Montana, entertainment industry” and “That loss impacts not only Bravo Entertainment, but the Missoula market as a whole.”
TKF further argue that both defendants benefited from the sale, while Bravo has lost the money promised under the agreement, in addition to future revenuem and its ability to compete in the city.
Checota and Wishcamper have filed for a motion to dismiss the claim of unlawful restraint of trade and, in response to the other counts, are seeking a jury trial and award, with Wishcamper arguing that Bravo’s poor performance violated the agreement and indeed led to Wishcamper’s company losing money, and forcing his company to sell the venue at a reduced price to Checota, as well as claiming damages for Bravo’s “fraud, negligent misrepresentational and constructive fraud” in failing to make due on promises it made regarding the management of the venue.
Forthcoming attactions include the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Nightwish, Zappa Plays Zappa and Reggie Watts.

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