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Cirque du Soleil sets $253 ticket top for 'Iris'

Prime seats for the Kodak Theatre extravaganza are going for a record L.A. price, topped only by some hot 'Beauty and the Beast' tickets.

August 10, 2011|By Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times

Cirque du Soleil's "Iris" at the Kodak Theatre appears to have the highest face price ever commanded by an L.A. theatrical production —although its $253 ticket (plus handling fee) is a record with an asterisk or two attached.

For the preview performances of "Iris" that began in July, the best seats cost $203 per ticket, plus a $5 to $9 handling fee. When regular performances begin Sept. 28, customers will pay $50 more in the same center-front section. For you low-rollers, the cheapest seats are $33 for previews and $43 for regular performances, plus the fee. Additionally, there's a ticket-delivery charge of $5 per order via email or $8 by regular mail.

The price was topped only briefly in March when an isolated few remaining tickets rose to $300 for "Beauty and the Beast" at the Pantages Theatre, where prices can rise or fall during the course of a run, depending on demand.

The $253 "Iris" tickets are in the center section of the 2,500-seat Kodak's first five rows. The price includes a "VIP" package of extras: free parking (a $10 value), a souvenir book and laminate, a complimentary beverage and use of a VIPs-only entrance. The price goes up to $263 (plus fees) during the holidays, Dec. 20 to 31.

A Cirque spokeswoman said Tuesday that the company doesn't comment on its pricing policies

The $100-million production features a cast of 75 acrobats, aerialists and clowns doing a Cirque-ified interpretation of classic Hollywood film genres such as cops-and-robbers, westerns and science fiction, all surrounding a central love story.

Cirque aims to stay in residence at the Kodak for 10 years and turn "Iris" into a standard attraction for Angelenos and visitors alike — "a show that will last forever," in the words of Daniel Lamarre, the Montreal-based company's president.

The top price in Los Angeles is well above what Cirque charges for the best seats at its seven different shows in Las Vegas, which cost up to $175 for "Viva Elvis" or $109 for "Mystere." Cirque's New York City production, "Zarkana," has a top price of $300 plus fees at Radio City Music Hall, where it's scheduled to close a four-month engagement on Oct. 8; Broadway's top ticket, "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," also commands up to $300 per ticket, according to the two shows' online sales information.

A spokesman for "Iris" said that "dynamic pricing" is not in effect, which means there's no plan to raise prices if demand runs high — which is now the norm for hot shows at the Pantages, Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum.

The $253 top face price for "Iris" exceeds the $250 the Geffen Playhouse charged during the pre-economic crash summer of 2008 for the first row of seats for the magic show "Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants."

Those 12 seats in the 98-capacity Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater also came with special perks, Geffen spokeswoman Allison Rawlings said, including an autographed copy of a magic book by Jay, a souvenir deck of cards, a free drink in the Founders Room and "a very good chance" at a moment in the spotlight, since during each performance Jay, a master of sleight-of-hand, would pick several people from the front row to play poker with him.

If you factor in spikes from dynamic pricing, VIP seats for "Iris" fall short of the apparent L.A. record for tickets purchased from a theater's box office. On the final weekend of a three-week March run of "Beauty and the Beast," the Pantages asked and received $300 each for a very small number of remaining tickets, said Martin Wiviott, general manager of its Broadway/L.A. series.

They weren't even front-and-center seats. Wiviott said those had long sold out at lower prices. The $300 ducats could have been had for $78 early on, but became extremely costly when they were all that was left.

The Pantages and Center Theatre Group are L.A.'s early adopters of so-called dynamic (also known as variable or demand) pricing for theater tickets, in which the initially advertised cost escalates as a run proceeds if demand proves intense, and drops if demand wilts.

Wiviott said that for starters, $125 is the typical top price at the Pantages. Then the free market kicks in — and it nearly quadrupled costs for those latest of "Beauty and the Beast" latecomers. A similar phenomenon enabled the Ahmanson to earn as much as $240 per ticket for prime-location seats for "Jersey Boys" in 2007, when it first dipped a toe in dynamic pricing.

With dynamic pricing now fully in effect at all three of Center Theatre Group's venues, the recent record-setting runs of "God of Carnage" and "Les Miserables" at the Ahmanson saw prices for the best seats on weekends escalate from an initial $120 to a peak of $200.

So how is the public responding to those VIP-priced seats for "Iris"? With as many as 72 on sale in the front/center orchestra section for each performance, demand appears solid at present.

The production's online ticketing software indicated Tuesday that only six VIP seats were left for the evening's performance; an average of 12 were available per performance through Sunday, and 30 per show remained unsold for the following week.

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