Half-Price Ticket Booth Moving to Web

Theatre LA has closed its same-day, half-price ticket booth at Jerry's Deli in West Hollywood. But the organization pledges to resume half-price ticket sales next fall, on the Internet.

The booth began business in late 1997 at the Beverly Center and moved to Jerry's last August. (It was called Times Tix because of a start-up grant from the Los Angeles Times.) Sales climbed past 200 per week when "Ragtime" was using the service. But in recent months the booth averaged only 100-150 sales per week. "It was staying pretty flat," said Theatre LA president Lars Hansen.

Theatre LA officials saw little reason to keep the booth going after June 30, when several grants that supported it expired. Without grants, the booth would have cost at least $500 per week. "Everyone agreed that it didn't warrant continued funding," Hansen said.

They apparently didn't consult frequent half-price ticket buyer Sonia Lazar, who called Calendar with news of the closure. Lazar used the booth an average of once a week, she said. She felt "it was a wonderful secret" and now feels "devastated." She volunteered to work at the booth one day a week if it were to be resurrected.

However, Theatre LA, which earlier this year began e-mailing daily lists of available half-price tickets to anyone who wanted them, will try to make the new Internet service even more accessible, Hansen said.

For those who don't like to use credit cards over the Internet, Hansen suggested that accounts might be created with cash deposits, eliminating the need for credit cards. For those who don't have access to the Internet, efforts will be made to publicize public Internet access points, such as libraries. And Theatre LA might establish satellite walk-up windows at or near the box offices of some of the larger member theaters, Hansen said. With some hotels now providing Internet services, tourists might easily participate.

The spread-out nature of L.A.'s theaters was a handicap for the booth. Customers would usually have to drive a fair distance to get the ticket, then drive just as far to see the show--in contrast to the famous New York half-price booth that's within walking distance of several dozen shows. Although Theatre LA had talked of expanding the booths to several other Southland Jerry's, Hansen felt that identifying the service with just one business made it too vulnerable to that company's ups and downs.

Internet sales are "a fascinating way to reach a lot more people than a site-specific spot," Hansen said. "It will make a cleaner, more efficient system."

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