THE REEL THING: News & Notes

A FIRE AT THE THEATRE BUILDING last week, ignited by an apparent electrical/computer surge, caused significant smoke and water damage to the box office and second floor administrative offices.

None of the three ground floor theatres were directly affected.

An office rented by the Illinois Theatre Association, where the fire started, sustained the worst damage. Rescue efforts caused gaping hole in the roof and smashed windows in the front office and skylight.

Despite the fire, Theatre Building retained its “never-ending season” reputation with uninterrupted performances and rehearsals of five current or upcoming productions last weekend.

REPS ARE PULLING OUT THEIR HAIR for lack of TV spot business. The reasons cited: Bad economy and advertisers don’t know where to put their ad dollars. “Everyone I know is in the same boat,” says a veteran rep of A-list directors. “There’s work to be had, but we’re all grabbing a piece here of work here and there,” the rep notes.

SIGNS OF THE TIMES: DDB downsized, as did three big post houses. DDB cut 22 employees, or 4% of its staff due to account losses … When Chrysler-Jeep moved to BBDO’s New York office, the Detroit office laid off 250 staffers. The head of production and his entire staff was eliminated.

PEOPLE IN HIGH PLACES: Bob Scarpelli will become chairman of DDB Worldwide. He is Chicago chairman and chief creative officer ? At Burrell, Lewis Williams replaces Steve Conner as chief creative officer. He was formerly a CD at Leo Burnett.

MICHAEL GRAF’S SPOT FILMWORKS of Madison, Wisc., an AAF Mosaic Award-winner has now collected seven awards for its International Peace Council PSA.

The Mosaic is especially important because this was the first time the big, Madison Avenue ad federation recognized a local company in a small market. Ad giants like Pepsi, Kraft and MasterCard are usually AAF award recipients.

SEEING STARS. Producer/director/actor Bob Balaban, will be honored at the “Reels and Deals” gala at the Gene Siskel Film Center April 21 at the Peninsula Hotel. Jeff Goldblum will present Balaban with the Renaissance Award. Roger Ebert hosts.

Comedian Tom Dreesen emcees the St. Michael in Old Town Parish’s gala honoring actor Dennis Farina April 22 at the Kendall College River Walk.

NEW YORK-MADE TV COMMERCIALS get a boost from new tax credits from the state budget that provides $7 million in funding. The incentives are designed to attract and keep more spot production in the state. Tax credits could begin July 1, 2006, or Jan. 1, 2007.

National AICP was behind the new legislation. AICP president Marc Miller pointed out that the economic impact generated by productions shot by AICP member companies amounts annually to some $5.5 billion. Yo, are you listening, Guv?