April 14, 2023
The Philly Pops has endured some financial struggles over the past year, including eviction from the Kimmel Center in January over a lack of payment and postponed shows in February as it reevaluates its business structure.
But the orchestral company claims its woes were engineered by competitors in a new lawsuit filed Thursday. In it, the Philly Pops argue that the Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center engaged in tactics to force the company out of business and create a monopoly in the city, citing, "unlawful, anticompetitive and predatory conduct."
The Philly Pops is asking for $2.5 million in damages, interest, the cost of filing the lawsuit, and attorneys fees. It also wants to be to reinstated permanently at the Verizon Hall auditorium at Kimmel.
The orchestra company said that from the time the Kimmel Center opened in 2001 until it shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic in May 2020, the Philly Pops performed 25-30 annual shows at Verizon Hall, where it earned approximately 70% of its ticket sales.
In 2021, the Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel joined forces to create The Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center Inc., the city's largest arts presenter. The partnership had a mission to "bring the greatest performances and most impactful education and community programs, in person and digitally, to audiences in Philadelphia and beyond," a news release said.
The lawsuit says that, through that partnership, the two entities controlled Ticket Philadelphia, the only online marketplace that sold tickets to the Kimmel Center, the Academy of Music and the Miller Theater.
The symphonic group argues that after shows resumed in 2021 and into 2022, the defendants — including Matías Tarnopolsky, the CEO of POKC — began engaging in predatory behavior towards the Philly Pops to force them out of business.
Those tactics included increasing fees for the Philly Pops to perform at Verizon Hall, slowing production and sale of seasonal tickets and proposing Philly Pops end its run after the 2022-2023 season, the lawsuit claims. It also asserts that POKC hired a public relations teams to promote messaging that the Philly Pops was ceasing business operations and the Philadelphia Orchestra would take over some of its show dates.
After the Philly Pops declined the proposal, it said POKC demanded immediate payment of fees leading to its eviction from the Kimmel Center.
The group also claims that Tarnopolsky attempted to redirect grant money previously earmarked for the Philly Pops to the Philadelphia Orchestra.
In November 2022, the Philly Pops announced its current season would be its last, ceasing operations after 44 years. The orchestra, however, changed course with a #SaveThePOPS fundraising campaign and then reached a new contract that does not expire until August 2024.
All that changed when the Kimmel Center evicted the Philly Pops in January after it failed to make a $520,000 payment to POKC.
In February, the Philly Pops announced it was moving some of its canceled shows to The Met, although it decided to postpone them to focus on creating a workable business structure.
The Philly Pops was founded in 1979, and the orchestral ensemble is known for playing popular jazz, swing, blues, and Broadway songs. In 1999, the symphonic group was named the official Pops orchestra of Pennsylvania.