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Ticketmaster, GCC test L.A. advance tix

As the studios’ big Christmas titles head for release, Ticketmaster Corp. and General Cinema Theatres Inc. confirmed yesterday the expansion of an advance ticket sales/preferred seating program to L.A. from the Dallas test market.

Set to start Sunday, the Ticketmaster system will be available for 59 screens at 11 General Cinema theaters in the Los Angeles area. Key venues include the Avco screens in Westwood, the Beverly Connection and the Galaxy Theatre in Hollywood.

The Ticketmaster/General Cinema system, which debuted in Dallas this summer (Daily Variety, May 7), allows customers to buy tickets at Ticketmaster outlets, from telephone operators, through an automated phone service and at the box office. Consumers still have the option to purchase regular-priced seats at the box office.

While most circuits have some form of automated advance ticket sales system, the GCC/Ticketmaster method is different because it incorporates Ticketmaster’s off-site outlets at such stores as Music Plus and Tower Records.

In addition, the system calls for General Cinema to cordon off center-section seats for in-demand shows. While preferred seating is established in markets such as Japan, Australia, South Africa and the U.K., the GCC/Ticketmaster partnership is believed to be one of the first major efforts to sell reserved seats in the United States.

“We don’t expect this will have a great impact on Monday or Tuesday nights,” said Ticketmaster chairman and chief executive Fred Rosen. “But we know that advance sales for event movies on Friday and Saturday nights and for children’s matinees gives people another choice when going to the movies.”

The service charge will be $ 1 for the automated service, $ 1.50 for the outlets and $ 2 from operator-assisted phones. There are service-charge discounts on children’s tickets. Preferred seats are a $ 1 premium.

General Cinema president Paul Del Rossi said the circuit and Ticketmaster will review the results early in 1993 and decide whether to take the system wider.

Del Rossi discounted the political nature of the Los Angeles test, which places the advance sales and preferred-seating system in the shadows of the studios.

“We’ve been upfront with the studios,” he said. “Our film department has been keeping the studio distribution executives well informed of what we are doing, and we will share the results with them” around the end of the year.

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