Note: This article has one update and one correction, below.
Delusion, the popular live-action, interactive Halloween attraction now in its third year, has closed for the season after its organizers were unable to renew its special event permits through the city.
The creators were leasing space in Silver Lake's Pilgrim Church (formerly Bethany Presbyterian), which has received attention lately over restaurateur Dana Hollister's plan to convert the space into a boutique hotel. Neighbors are reportedly worried about the impact of traffic, noise and parking on the community.
According to Delusion creator and director Jon Braver, the show suffered from a harassment campaign by a neighbor across the street who regularly called the police with trumped-up noise complaints. Braver, who secured the venue in August, says the conflict became a proxy battle for the development project.
“It became painfully clear that we were being used as an example of what could happen if Dana starts building this hotel,” says Braver.
Locals came by to take pictures while the crew was building the set. According to Braver, one neighbor had hired a land-use consultant to fight the hotel project and then worked to drive out the show. On opening weekend, audiences were waiting in line outside when a motorcycle jumped the curb and rode toward the ticketing line, forcing people to jump out of the way. The rider then circled and came through again. The creators subsequently moved ticketing inside. (Update: Robert Cherno is a land-use consultant working on behalf of several Silver Lake residents. He contacted the Weekly to deny this article's implication that he was involved in the Delusion motorcycle incident. He was not even in Los Angeles at the time, he said.)
Despite these frustrations, Braver says, “It all came down to LADBS” — L.A. Department of Building and Safety.
Last year, Delusion: The Blood Rite was staged at a mansion in the historic West Adams district from the beginning of October into December. Braver applied for a permit each week through LADBS and secured nine of them, enough for the show's whole run. This year, a supervisor told him there was a firm limit of five permits per year, even though by that point Braver had already purchased seven. The LADBS web site does not list the cap online.
According to LADBS Public Information Officer Luke Zamperini, the issue wasn't a permit limit, but the impact on the community. Braver had to apply for a Temporary Special Event permit to transform the church from its intended purpose. Each permit is valid for a maximum of five consecutive days and gets renewed at LADBS' discretion.
“The issuance of the permits was discontinued for this location due to the high volume of complaints received from the surrounding community,” Zamperini said in an email. “Incidentally, Delusion was at a different location last year and generated no complaints whatsoever.”
Later, he clarified, “The Department of Building and Safety is not obligated to issue or continue to issue these kind of permits. Particularly when the surrounding community is negatively impacted by the activity, crowds, traffic, etc. We received several complaints primarily from the residences directly across the street. LAPD communicated their desire that the activity cease.”
Braver says early on he received some calls from neighbors whose property bordered the back alley complaining that noise from screaming and rattling chains was keeping them awake. He had professional soundproofing installed and notified the residents, who thanked him and made no further complaints. A security guard was also stationed outside to shush departing visitors. Police visited the site several times to address anonymous noise complaints, but Braver says they never identified any infractions. He believes they grew tired of responding to calls.
According to Braver, Delusion: The Masque of Mortality, the title of this year's edition, was self-contained. Cast and crew converted the 20,000 square-foot space into a 50-minute interactive horror play with an original score, Hollywood-caliber stunts and special effects. Parking was available at a nearby lot rented from Hollister. The show's last hour-long sessions of the night began at 11 p.m. on Thursdays and Sunday and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Delusion's last performance was on Nov. 3. Performances were nearly sold out through Nov. 24, so Braver had to refund 12 shows with an average of 200 visitors per night at $55 per ticket. He estimates his losses at $132,000. That doesn't include the impact on 50 cast and crew members, whom Braver dreads laying off before the holidays.
For now, he is scouting small business-friendly, non-residential locations — elsewhere in L.A., as well as in Orange county and Chicago — where he can also get a liquor license.
“This is a tiny little bump,” Braver says. “We're going to come back with a vengeance.”
(Correction: This article previously stated that the show ran until 11 p.m. on Thursdays and Sunday and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The show actually started its final hour-long sessions of the night at those times. We regret the error.)
Public Spectacle, L.A. Weekly's arts & culture blog, on Facebook and Twitter: