Apollo fighting for ‘Showtime’

Filing asks for companies to cease using program titles

The Apollo Theater Foundation has filed a preliminary injunction against syndicator Western Intl. Syndication and production company Inner City Theater Group to cease using title “Showtime in Harlem” for their syndie series.

Request was made in conjunction with a suit Apollo filed in December in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Org asks that Western and Inner City cease using “Best of It’s Showtime at the Apollo,” “Showtime” and “Showtime in Harlem” as titles of programs distributed in the coming season.

Motion is the latest in a series of legal entanglements over the production of the variety show. Last summer in L.A., Western, which once distributed “Showtime at the Apollo,” filed suit against current distributor Heritage Networks. Western claimed that although it was no longer producing the show, it still controlled the timeslot and could delivery any urban variety show in its place. That suit is still ongoing.

In the current suit, Apollo alleges that Western and Inner City have deliberately selected names that are confusingly similar to “Showtime at the Apollo,” thus infringing on its trademark rights. Org also feels that the shows incorporate programming elements (such as Amateur Night competition) that imitate the original.

Programming crush

“We have taken this action now because we simply cannot allow the confusing situation that existed this past year to continue for another season,” said Jonelle Procope, CEO-president of the nonprofit foundation. “Our mandate is to preserve and strengthen the institution of the Apollo Theater. Our intellectual property helps to create resources that belong to the entire community.”

Inner City and Western launched “Showtime at the Apollo” in 1985. It is now distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution and the Heritage Networks, who hold the license for the next five years. Syndie series, now produced by de Passe Entertainment, is seen in 119 markets on NBC affiliate stations.

Landmark Apollo Theater is owned by New York state and overseen by a board chaired by AOL Time Warner chief Richard Parsons.

“Showtime in Harlem” bowed in 2002. It airs on UPN and Fox in New York and on UPN in L.A.