By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
“I bet,” McCarthy responds, “the last time that person got on a plane, he didn’t fly full price — and yet didn’t feel cheapened.”
Goldstar, which offers discount tickets to live-entertainment events in 10 metropolitan areas, is an Internet-spawned new kid on the block. (McCarthy and his colleagues came from the Geocities Web-hosting service.) McCarthy says his company’s discounts bring people to live theater who otherwise might not be inclined to watch it. Goldstar claims 550,000 clients, who signed up for the service online, described their tastes, and now receive e-mails suggesting shows they might like that are usually discounted by 50 percent and upward. (Goldstar adds a fee ranging from $3.50 to $7 for each ticket.)
McCarthy claims Goldstar brings ethnically diverse audiences to theaters, and estimates that most of his customers are between 35 and 40 years old, 75 to 80 percent of them women.
David Elzer, whose Demand PR agency represents some of L.A.’s edgier small-theater productions, agrees that the papering and discount companies often bring non-theater audiences to theater.
“I find there’s a different world of people who use these sites,” he says. “They can’t afford full price, and this is a way to bring them in.”
But others claim that even if they could afford full-price tickets, many discount-ticket buyers won’t pay full price and wouldn’t see any theater if they weren’t getting it cut-rate. The new papering paradigm seems recklessly counterintuitive: That Los Angeles is mostly populated by non-theatergoers who nevertheless wait, licking their lips in the dark, for the release of half-price tickets to Troilus and Cressida or What the Butler Saw. The success of papering agencies, though, seems to validate that assumption.
On a Saturday night in Hollywood, I’m sitting in a well-regarded Theater Row venue to review the L.A. premiere of a play by a well-regarded writer. Besides being well-regarded itself, the theater company mounting this production is also known as one that does not use papering services. Not counting myself and another critic, there are five people in the audience. It is the show’s second night.
The play is about Hollywood and its temptations, which means it’s a serious story with jokes. The production is very good: The actors deliver their lines to the nearly empty house with an assured grace, as though the place were a packed amphitheater and each utterance had been greeted with laughter or applause. For two hours, I forget where I am and have no sense of who may or may not be filling the seats around me. As far as I’m concerned, this play was written solely for me, and the cast is performing it only for my benefit. The rest is paper.