Letter: Edmontonian not happy with ticket availability

I’m writing to express my concern, disappointment and frustration with ticket sales and promotions for events at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre. My wife and I live in Edmonton and are great lovers of the arts. Not only do we support our local symphony, opera, and several Edmonton theatre troupes, we frequently buy tickets to events in outlying areas. Favourite venues include Horizon Stage in Spruce Grove, The Arden in St. Albert, and Festival Place in Sherwood Park. We enjoy getting out of town and sampling the seasons in our neighbouring communities whenever possible.

Last year we also attended two shows at the Morinville CCC, and would have very likely gone to more of them if they had not been so poorly promoted. We missed Al Simmons, for example, who is a longtime family favourite – we only learned of his show after the fact. The CCC is a beautiful facility, and Morinville is a charming town with several good choices for dinner, a drink or a coffee before the show. The Town of Morinville, and the taxpayers who supported the building of the CCC, have ample justification to feel proud. So why are the town hiding this wonderful light under a bushel? Why is the CCC not doing more to advertise its shows outside of Morinville? And why does the CCC box office wait so perversely late to put its tickets on sale?

While it is true that CCC tickets can usually be found at Tix on the Square close to the day of the show, the Tix website (and the physical box office, which is located on Churchill Square in downtown Edmonton) carries tickets for literally hundreds of cultural and sporting events. Trust me when I say that Morinville’s shows are getting lost in the deluge of listings. If we didn’t have good friends who live in Morinville, we likely would never have known about shows by The Polyjesters and Lorne Elliot, which we enjoyed very much.

This year, we have already booked more than a dozen shows for the 2012-2013 seasons of the Arden, Festival Place and Horizon Stage – and we’ve had the tickets for these shows in our possession for more than a month. This advance planning was possible because we received flyers in the mail from the venues and were then able to go to their websites (or call the box offices directly) to purchase tickets. Obviously the Arden and Festival Place are bigger venues than the CCC, but your facility makes Horizon Stage look like a church basement. So what is the fabulous and shiny new CCC doing to promote its shows?

Very little, as it turns out. My wife and I actually happened to be in Morinville on Monday, September 10, and we stopped by the CCC box office to try to get information about shows. There were no posters or visible promotions of any kind on display for upcoming events. We almost left, having assumed that there would not be any shows this fall after all. After inquiring at the box office, the manager handed us a single-page colour handbill listing twelve shows and dates, with no further details given. The first of these shows, by the excellent Jesse Peters Trio, was scheduled for September 28, just over two weeks from the day we visited town. We spotted at least four shows of interest and offered to buy tickets immediately. Incredibly, no tickets were available for any of the performances! The box office manager informed us that “we could come back on Thursday,” which simply was not an option for us.

We took the handbill home, hoping to order tickets later. The top of the flyer advertised “full season and ticket information available at morinvillecentre.ca,” so we tried to visit the website the next day – only to discover that there is no such website! Browsers are redirected to the Town of Morinville’s website, where there is no further information about the CCC season, and no way to purchase tickets.

Is there any kind of vision or business model at work here? The facility has been open for more than a year and has no website, no online sales, no promotions to speak of, and no way to buy tickets to a show, not even at the venue itself – with less than two weeks left before the start of the season. This is no way to run a cultural centre, and it’s no small wonder that last year’s shows consistently lost money.

My wife and I are actively trying to support the CCC and the Town of Morinville, and yet it is almost an uphill battle to learn of events or procure tickets. It’s time to decide whether you want to run shows at the centre or just use the magnificent new building as a town hall and multipurpose room. If you’re serious about the CCC living up to its name and attracting the audiences it richly deserves, it is long past time to pay attention to how successful venues are managed – even lesser ones like Horizon Stage. These places are running circles around you by simply building a website, doing some rudimentary promotions, and making their facilities customer friendly. The current tactics of the CCC management, or lack thereof, are bizarre and self-defeating. It simply shouldn’t be such hard work to go to a show!

Frustrated and ticketless in Edmonton,
Randy Williams

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6 Comments

  1. This certainly sheds a very poor light on all these people who were hired to make the cultural centre operate. I’ve also heard of a few horror stories regarding the fees this place charges to use the facilities. It begs a few questions. Perhaps the most important being, who handled the interviewing process when some of these people were hired? Or better yet, were these people running this place interviewed at all? Or were they given their positions by political appointee? If you’re intent on building a magnificent, overpriced facility, you should ensure that you find capable people to oversee it’s operation.

  2. I sure hope this is one of those emails where the individual just simply does not know what they are talking about.

    But it does not sound like that!!!

    I know of at least 7 people who should really be asking questions. Perhaps the same questions asked above. (And a few more!)

    Just below the above 7 in the pecking order, is another person who should be asking questions I would think.

    When I see the promotional items that other venues produce, its easy to tell ours our lacking. Is it budget restraints? Or lack of vision and expertise?

    I have been to several events in Morinville’s CCC. Never have I received follow up brochures because I do not believe they collect the information needed to put me on a mailing list to be able to send me items.

    I receive mail and email from a competitor that I visited, regularly.

  3. Well said Randy and thanks for supporting the MCC. I have heard many of the same comments from people around town and experienced the same frustration myself, when I attempted to buy tickets for Lorne Elliot.

    I also wonder what “plans” there are for better advertising the upcoming season and when the website is going to be working.
    Linda and Cliff

  4. Some food for thought for our hopeful concillors and those already on the council. The gentleman from Edmonton makes a lot of valid points.

  5. Even as a resident of Morinville I hardly see any promotion of events at the CCC , and have also found it frustratingly hard to get information at all the few times I’ve tried. The reader has some very valid points and I look forward to a response from the CCC operators!

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