Consumers winning ticket war

At the end of “Batman Begins,” Commissioner Gordon makes the cool speech about “escalation.” “We start carrying semiautomatics, they buy automatics. We start wearing Kevlar, they buy armor-piercing rounds.”

The next installment is due this summer and we can’t wait. But on the Strip, producers are less enthusiastic about an ongoing ticket war among same-day, half-price vendors. For years now, they’ve been caught in the middle as the increasingly dominant player, Tickets4tonight, pressured for exclusivity against its original rival, Tickets2Nite, and a newer upstart, All Access Ticketing.

Now comes the escalation. Tickets4tonight finally forced Tickets2Nite out of its original, high-profile location in the Showcase mall. The latter moved a short distance away and rolled out a new weapon: phone sales.

Some background might be required to explain the impact of this. For years, casinos feared and even fought the arrival of half-price, Broadway-style sales. Nearly all Las Vegas shows were same-day, impulse buys, they argued.

Mitch Francis, who heads Tickets4tonight, argued a successful case for deliberate inconvenience. Full-priced sales could be preserved as much as possible if you had to physically show up at the half-price outlets.

Francis calls phone sales a “dangerous, bad dynamic that’s creeping into our marketplace. And I think it portends the ruination of our marketplace.”

He figures this could be “a white flag” for full-priced sales. “They’re taking people who potentially would buy a full-price ticket and converting them to a half-price ticket because it’s convenient.”

But Francis’ company, with five locations, also bends the original ground rules. A couple of shows are now offered a day in advance. He categorizes that as an experiment, “so we don’t disappoint those who were standing in line.”

And some titles offer discounts of less than the 50 percent once promised across the board. Francis maintains customers grateful for any discount outnumber those who feel misled. In both cases, “the producer always maintains control” by limiting the ticket supply, he says.

It’s arguable the consumer wins in all cases, but producers struggle to adjust to a shifting model. “I’ll be in favor of the phone sales thing as soon as all the advertising goes half-price, too, and the rent goes down,” says hypnotist Anthony Cools.

But “American Superstars” producer Mark Callas uses the phone service and says most shows require multiple means of discounting. “Only a handful of shows can say, ‘We’re so strong right now, take (full price) or leave it.’ The value-conscious shows — Hey, we need that stuff. We rely on it.”

Mike Weatherford’s entertainment column appears Thursdays and Sundays. Contact him at 383-0288 or e-mail him at

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