A ticket to a big show, blockbuster exhibition or summer arts festival makes a great last-minute Christmas gift.
But the current wave of Covid – driven by the Omicron variant – is going nowhere, and cancellations are already starting.
The popular Sydney production of Come From Away, performed at the Capitol Theater, was forced to cancel four performances this week, after a member of the company was identified as positive for Covid. And Jimmy Barnes, the Hoodoo Gurus and Faith No More shows are among at least 300 live events scheduled over the Christmas period that have been canceled or postponed.
Shows in London’s West End and New York’s Broadway are already rolling the shutters. Buying a ticket in the coming weeks could be a roll of the dice.
On the bright side, Australian producers and promoters have made significant changes to their ticketing policies since 2020 and continue to refine their ticket exchange and refund models.
No matter what, you’re unlikely to end up with a useless piece of paper promising a good night out that never happened.
Always read the fine print
Before purchasing a ticket, be sure to read the fine print. the really small print.
What happens, for example, if the production for which you have purchased tickets suddenly cancels one or more shows?
What if the person you bought the tickets for can’t attend the party because they are isolated?
What if the whole city was in circuit breaker containment?
The Australian ticket office code of practice has been developed over the years by Live Performance Australia. Almost all theater companies, music festivals, concert presenters and concert promoters follow its guidelines.
For the most part, when buying a ticket, the presenter or venue had the upper hand. They have the right, for example, to modify or postpone dates, replace artists and modify announced programs.
So if you buy a ticket for a friend and they don’t feel like going out that night, or if they left the performer for some reason, you’re not entitled to a refund. If they’re not doing well, however – and you may be asked to prove this with a medical certificate or a text from a state health authority – there are other options. Covid has forced a relaxation of strict rules.
âIf a ticket holder cannot attend the event due to some discomfort or other personal circumstance, they are not entitled to an automatic refund under Australian consumer law,â explains Evelyn Richardson, Managing Director of Live Performance Australia. “However, event planners still have the discretion to provide a refund or other remedy, if they so choose, although there may not be a legal obligation to do so.”
Different rules for each event
Businesses and locations across the country are responding to the pandemic in different ways – which becomes evident when you dive into their individual shop policies.
“There is no longer a generalized party line,” says Lisa Campbell, chair of the Sydney Hayes Theater Co programming committee.
âA small business like ours can usually work on a case-by-case basis. If someone calls us, we can determine what their situation is and if can we reimburse – for example, if they were from Melbourne, but now cannot cross the border.
According to Live Performance Australia, any right to a refund, exchange or other remedy depends on the terms and conditions of the ticket at the time of purchase.
âBut we expect our member organizations to treat ticket holders fairly if shows are forced to cancel or are postponed due to government mandates,â said Richardson.
From Bangarra to Belvoir at MTC
For example, if a ticket holder cannot attend due to illness or isolation related to Covid, Sydney’s Belvoir will try to move them into an alternate performance. If this is not possible, the ticket purchaser is credited with the cost of the ticket for another show of the season.
Subject to availability, Bangarra dance theater (whose new production Wudang: Not the Past will premiere at the upcoming Sydney festival, before heading to Hobart and South Australia) will exchange tickets for those suffering from illness or isolation. They also waive the exchange fees and, if an exchange is not possible, the ticket can be converted into a gift voucher valid for three years.
the Sydney opera will also exchange tickets for a future production, although it must be one by the same presenter. An unusable ticket can also be converted into a gift voucher valid for three years.
Opera Australia offers exchanges and gift vouchers if a ticket cannot be used. Refunds are at the “absolute discretion” of the company.
If a Melbourne Theater Company The ticket cannot be used, it can be converted into credit towards future MTC productions, gift certificates, subscriptions or MTC Digital Theater video passes. Refunds, if granted, can take up to six weeks to process.
Sydney Theater Company Now offers free ticket exchanges up to two hours before performances and instructs ticket holders to contact ticket office staff to discuss exchange, transfer or refund options.
“We want people to have confidence and are currently offering customers a free ticket exchange up to two hours before performances,” said a spokesperson for STC. âAll reasonable return requests will be considered. “
Flexibility at the box office can go either way, says Lisa Campbell. âRelations between theaters and audiences are changing. People really understand how hard it is to put on a show, so when we have to cancel, or someone can’t come, they basically give away their tickets. It has been incredible.
âWe want to reward customers who come back to theaters. We recognize that this is a tentative period and that we are all in the same boat.
Things get a bit tricky when it comes to art festivals. Seasons are generally shorter (unless the show is co-presented by a local company), and it can be difficult for those suffering from prolonged isolation or symptoms of illness to rebook in the same show.
A spokesperson for Sydney Festival, which opens Jan.6, says the festival will review and process refunds if ticket holders are unwell or have Covid-like symptoms; if they have been told to isolate themselves; and if they cannot attend the festival due to border restrictions. Refund requests can be submitted up to four hours before the show.
The 2022 Perth Festival opens on February 11, a week after Western Australia opened its border with the rest of the country. At the time of writing, it closely follows the guidelines of the PCPA. Even if you are isolated or tested positive, their website says, “We are under no obligation to refund or exchange any tickets, vouchers, or gift certificates.”
Tasmania Mona Foma arts festival (Launceston, January 21-23; Hobart, January 28-30) will reimburse up to 24 hours before an event (with medical certificate).
âIt’s a fragile time for events,â says Mona Foma Artistic Director Brian Ritchie. âWe encourage our performers to take artistic risks. As presenters, we strive to minimize risk to the audience by creating a safe environment, comfortable capabilities, and smooth operation.
Adelaide Festival, which opens in March, unleashes its box office policies to boost consumer confidence.
âWe got it,â says Rachel Healy, co-artistic director of the festival. âWe have programmed into a pandemic and we understand the challenges for audiences and artists better than anyone. A night at the festival should be a source of hope and optimism, not a source of anxiety.
Much of the audience for the Adelaide Festival is from interstate and overseas (nearly 20,000 in 2019). If border closures or changes to quarantine regulations are a feature of 2022, Healy wants to assure ticket buyers they won’t have to pay.
âWe have the most fantastic team of box office staff who have been working in the arts forever and they are really responsive and when it comes to selling tickets and coming to the theater we will do whatever we can to exchange. and if we can’t exchange we will refund you.We support you.
“It’s the new normal.”