angel city designs started out solely as a planner of Events, but now it's creating touring theatrical shows like a revival commemorating the hit musical 'hair'
What do Apple Computer, Madonna and Angel City Designs have in common?
They all believe that reinventing themselves can prolong success. Apple and Madonna have succeeded. Angel City is trying to do the same.
Mark Yumkas, owner of the Van Nuys corporate party and event planner, wants to create and promote traveling theater shows and take an equity stake in those productions.
His first effort will be a show based on the musical "Hair" for the 30th anniversary of the show next year.
"We feel that this is a natural way for us to extend our brand into other outlets," Yumkas said. "The process is the same whether we do a $25,000 or $60,000 product launch, so why not do productions on a grander scale and potentially pocket more revenue?"
For the 39-year-old Yumkas, it's another way to distinguish himself in a fiercely competitive industry that includes L.A. heavyweights like Party Planners West and Merv Griffin Productions.
"In this business, it's a bad idea to put all of your eggs in one basket," he said. "That's why we don't want to solely concentrate on movie premieres or simply with businesses here in L.A. We want a greater push on productions and technology companies."
Akin to a traveling amusement park, "Hair" will be a tent festival featuring food, activities and small theater shows based on the musical. The event will begin next summer for a three-year tour.
"It's a gamble absolutely, but ("Hair") shouldn't flop," Yumkas said. "We're very picky about who we work with. We've looked at a number of proposals We charge a fee or we may trade out part of the fee for equity, like in 'Hair.' But we're looking to close on solid deals."
Yumkas also is collaborating with Fox Broadcasting Co. on 10-year anniversary festivities for "The Simpsons." On Jan. 15, the "Simpsons Global Fanfest" will kick off with a Web site, international trivia game and activities that will culminate in a party at a Fox lot in October. From that project, Fox hopes to develop a traveling tour to hit college campuses.
Meanwhile, the firm's party business continues to flourish. Angel City will complete about 60 events this year for clients that include Compaq Computer Corp., 3-D Systems and Walt Disney Co. Recent projects include handling the premiere of Touchstone Pictures' "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" and the launch of Nike's new millennium shoe at the Beverly Hills Niketown, with Michael Jordan in attendance.
"We had a party last year to present our fall lineup to our advertisers, and overnight it grew from 1,800 to 2,000 people," said Tomiko Iwata, director of special events for Fox Broadcasting. "But they were able to accommodate everything."
After completing a hospitality program at Rochester Institute of Technology when he was 19, Yumkas launched his first business, called Bagel Place, in Baltimore. He grew the company to 24 locations within five years, but decided to sell out when the business overwhelmed him.
"I had no life, the business took all my time, and I felt I had succeeded at it," he said. "There wasn't much more to accomplish."
He tried his hand at a couple of restaurant concepts in Baltimore, including a catering company that worked with a few movie productions. That aspect of the business appealed to him, and he moved to California in 1990 to pursue it further.
Within months, Yumkas signed on as senior sales coordinator at Parties Plus and quickly became immersed in conceptual planning of parties and premieres.
It wasn't long before he struck out on his own. In 1992, he started Angel City Events, which focused on weddings and bar mitzvahs. Then, in 1993, the company merged with Atom Smashers, a manufacturer of neon props. The two divisions often collaborated on parties.
"That's when we pushed to the corporate arena," Yumkas said. "The margins were better. Holding a bride's hand for eight months is not a cost-effective way to do business."
The company had handled nearly every aspect of its productions working with individual carpenters, set dressers and designers. But the business tactic proved too costly.
Four years later, Yumkas once again set out on his own to create Angel Design Studios, taking three employees with him and farming out the bulk of the scenic design work to Mr. Scenic and Pacific Coast Scenery in Los Angeles.
"We wanted to focus solely on the creative side of things and not have to worry about managing a bunch of staffers," Yumkas said.
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