An unpleasant experience happened last Saturday, which I pass on to you so that you can take such warning as is necessary. The Trimbles, George Barr, Al Lewis & a date of his, and I went to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Music Center to see "Tales of Hoffman". Not only wouldn't they let us in to see the first half of it, they refused to refund our ticket money -- $30.00. Their excuse is that we were late, but we're arguing that, and we may argue it into Small Claims Court.
What happened is that we arrived about 3 minutes after the hour. A large number of people were still arriving, and the man in front of the theater was announcing the last call. We asked the ticket-taker where to go, and he told us to take the elevator to the third floor. We went to the elevator, and while waiting for it to arrive, we heard a burst of applause from inside the theater. With that, the elevator usher announced that we had missed the first act, and would have to wait in the cocktail lounge until the second act began, nearly an hour later. Naturally, we protested, and were sent to the ticket office, the head usher, and the floor manager. All of these people said things like (a) they couldn't help it; they were following instructions (b) it was our own fault for arriving late, and (c) none of the other late-comers were objecting to waiting in the cocktail lounge, where they could watch the performance on a closed-circuit TV, just like TVs in regular cocktail lounges and bars. The floor manager was particularly rude, finally cutting us off with the comment that there was nothing we could do about it and he was too busy to stand around all night arguing, and that there was no point in our taking it to court because he'd testify that he saw us arrive well after the time we could logically have expected the performance to begin, and that the ushers would back him up. This last was a barefaced like, and is the thing that may spur us into taking it to Court after all, instead of writing it off as not worth the bother. There are six of us who can testify as to when we arrived, and I don't think the manager would be so stupid as to claim that every usher in the theatre just happened to notice the exact moment at which we arrived.
What it may all come down to is, what is Late and how much right does the Music Center have to refuse to let you see a performance which you've paid for? The manager said that refusing to let in late-comers was a standard rule of the Center, clearly announced on the ticket, and he wasn't responsible if we didn't read or believe the ticket. Well, I read the ticket, before the ushers took it. It said something like, there will be no seating after the beginning of the performance." Now I used to usher at the old L.A. Philharmonic, which used teen-agers as non-paid ushers in return for letting them see the performance, and they had a similar rule; but what it meant was that the ushers went off-duty when the performance began, and late-comers had to find their seats themselves. That's a far cry from refusing to let late-comers into the theatre at all. Were we legally required to know that the operating procedure of the seating had been changed, while the same stock phrase was still being used on the tickets? I don't think so.
The manager said that the no-late-seating rule was enforced to keep theatre-goers from being annoyed by late-comers crawling over them, and I can see the point of this rule. But as I said, what is Late? I've been to the Pavilion before, several times, and the performances on those occasions usually begin about 15 minutes after the curtain time announced on the tickets. Also, there's usually a musical introduction, which is considered a prelude to the performance, and during which people are still seated. On Saturday night, they not only cut down the period of grace for 15 to 5 minutes, they eliminated the introduction altogether. I object to this last on esthetic grounds, too; I came to see "Tales of Hoffman", not a condensed version of it. From the standpoint of arrival time, though, it means that the performance began over ten minutes sooner than we expected it to, based on our experiences at seeing other productions at the Pavilion. Were we legally required to know this, too? We say that since we arrived within what the normal theatre-goer could have expected to be adequate time to be seated before the performance began; and since we entered the theatre while the last-call notice was still being given, and did not dawdle in trying to get to our seats, we were not Late. I suspect that our interpretation is the legal one, since the manager found it necessary to state that he'd swear that we didn't arrive until long after the last-call had ceased the the performance began, if it came to court. This wouldn't be necessary if he could've claimed that we were late by the mere fact of arriving after the time printed on the ticket; we never denied that we got there about three minutes after the hour.
Al Lewis and his date decided not to fight the Administration, and went down to the cocktail lounge to wait for the second act. The Trimbles, George, and I were in no frame of mind to enjoy much of anything at this point, and we left. We noticed that we weren't the only people complaining that the performance had begun sooner than it could've been expected to, and Bĵo exchanged names with another couple who said that they planned on going to Small Claims Court to get their admission refunded. They arrived after we did, but within the 15-minute grace period usually given by the Pavilion.
We'll keep you in contact with what happens. Right now I'm not too happy about giving the Music Center any more of my business, but neither do I want to give up attending the theatre just because I'm mad at the only place where most of what I want to see is being performed. If any of you are planning on going to the Center in the future -- and I know that a lot of you are going to the D'Oyly Carte performances later this month -- you'd better not allow for any grace period at all, but make sure you're there well before the time printed on your ticket.
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