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January 20, 2023

Philly Pops evicted from Kimmel Center for failing to make $520,000 payment

The financially-strapped orchestra was slated to perform at Verizon Hall in mid-February. Those shows have been suspended

Music Philly POPS
Philly POPS Kimmel Center Source/Philly POPS

The Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center has suspended its ties with Philly POPS, above, because the ensemble failed to meet a deadline for a $520,000 payment.

The Kimmel Cultural Campus cut off its relationship with Philly Pops on Friday afternoon after warning the ensemble that it must pay its debts or face eviction.

All upcoming Philly Pops performances have been suspended while the group restructures its business model and gains financial security, the Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center said in a message posted to its website. 

"Despite multi-year efforts to assist and accommodate the Philly Pops, it failed to pay a portion of its accruing debts, now totaling over $1 million," the statement said. 

The nonprofit Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center, the city's largest arts presenter, said it could not continue to absorb the Philly Pops' debt, noting the Pops is a separate entity and "has a sole responsibility to pay the wages of its musicians and staff as well as performance-related costs and expenses." 

The Philly Pops was scheduled to perform its "Get Up, Stand Up: An Encyclopedia of Soul" show Feb. 17-19. Those performances are listed as canceled on the Kimmel Cultural Campus website

Philly Pops spokesperson Annie Meiko said the ensemble was "incredibly disappointed" by the Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center's decision to evict it. 

"As we've said, we believed we were negotiating in good faith on a plan to meet our obligations with them, a plan quite similar to those we have successfully fulfilled in the past," Meiko said in an email. "We hope to continue our efforts to raise the necessary funds to satisfy them. Our #SAVETHEPops campaign is off to a promising start; we hope to continue that campaign and will be preparing a statement on our remaining shows scheduled for this season at the Kimmel in the next days."

The Philly Pops had been ordered to pay more than $520,000 in back rent by noon Friday or vacate Verizon Hall. But Philly Pops executives told the Inquirer on Thursday that the Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center made the ultimatum while knowing the Pops could not pay up. 

In November, the Pops announced the ensemble would shut down operations after the 2022-23 season, ending a run of more than 40 years. It cited "a combination of circumstances," including the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic." 

In December, Philly Pops union members threatened to strike if they did not receive a new contract; a tentative agreement was reached Dec. 23.

Then, at the start of the year, the Pops kickstarted a fundraiser in the hopes of extending operations beyond the current season. The ensemble aims to raise $2 million by July.