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Paying more, just because you can

April 02, 2006|Diane Haithman

FOR $93, you can purchase a really good seat for "Salome," a staged reading of Oscar Wilde's play featuring the all-star cast of Al Pacino, Kevin Anderson and Jessica Chastain directed by Estelle Parsons that will play April 14 to 26 at the Wadsworth Theatre.

But if you're a Very Important Person, you can buy a comparable seat at the same show for ... $200. (VIP seats for previews are a relative bargain at $198.)

According to people in the business, for the last five years it's become something of a trend in Los Angeles for commercial theaters to offer higher-priced VIP tickets for popular shows, reserving choice seats for those willing to pay the price.

Of course, those seats may be right next to those of a longtime subscriber or a mere row or two ahead of some lucky schmo who snapped up tickets early for the regular price -- people who may be smart but are more than $100 less important.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday April 04, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 55 words Type of Material: Correction
Theater tickets: An Arts Notes item on VIP theater tickets in Sunday's Calendar misspelled the last name of the Broadway/L.A. firm's marketing director, Wayne McWorter, as McWhorter. The dates given for the upcoming show "Salome" were also incorrect; it will run April 27 through May 14 at the Wadsworth Theatre, not April 14 to 26.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday April 09, 2006 Home Edition Sunday Calendar Part E Page 2 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 53 words Type of Material: Correction
Theater tickets: An Arts Notes item on VIP theater tickets last Sunday misspelled the last name of the Broadway/L.A. firm's marketing director, Wayne McWorter, as McWhorter. The dates given for the show "Salome" were also incorrect; it will run April 27 through May 14 at the Wadsworth Theatre, not April 14 to 26.

Shows that have offered VIP ducats include "The Producers" at the Pantages in 2003-04, which offered a VIP ticket of $125 (versus a top regular ticket price of $95) and, more recently, Billy Crystal's one-man show, "700 Sundays," which charged $200 for a VIP ticket while the most expensive ticket for a non-VIP patron was priced at $95. For "Salome," many of the VIP seats are already reserved for Visa, a corporate sponsor.

Wayne McWhorter, director of marketing for the Broadway/L.A. musicals headquartered at Hollywood's Pantages Theatre, says that seats reserved for VIPs never account for more than 10% of the house and that no subscriber is ever bumped from his or her primo seat to accommodate a VIP.

However, McWhorter adds, a show's producers -- the ones who determine the price of VIP tickets, as opposed to the theater -- seem to be finding plenty of willing L.A. buyers who prefer the no-hassle assurance of a good seat to playing the game of finding a similar seat by other means. "There is a group of people who just don't care what the price is," McWhorter says.

And, says Richard Willis, co-owner of Richmark Entertainment -- which owns and operates the Wadsworth and Brentwood theaters as well as Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre -- most producers throw in a few perks with the higher price, such as souvenir programs, no-waiting theater entrances or preferred parking. When the Wadsworth housed Tovah Feldshuh's one-woman show, "Golda's Balcony," VIPs received a DVD signed by the actress, and VIP "Salome" patrons will have entree to a special room in which to gather at the theater.

Diane Haithman

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