Using PayPal in the past, the Black Box Theatre Company, an arts academy for children and teens in Lebanon, decided to go with Brown Paper Tickets, an online ticketing outlet, in February.
“We’re a small not-for-profit and we just didn’t have the technology on our own to do a ticketing system,” Brandy Moss, BBTC board member, said. “So they don’t charge us any fees and they charge the buyer a small fee. So for a non-profit standpoint, it was perfect.”
Until the money didn’t come. Black Box Theatre Company and Center Stage Community Theatre both lost money to the apparent collapse of the company. Arts and fundraising organizations across the country have lost thousands of dollars in ticket fees for events held earlier this year.
Because of the pandemic, Moss said BBTC didn’t expect to get the money from the production of “Noises Off” in the typical 10-day time frame. Moss, who handles the website duties, realized in April that the money, about $1,000 never came. She emailed the company three times to receive a standard support email returned. Unknowingly, BBTC had another exclusive event through Brown Paper Tickets. In total, Moss estimates the company owes the group $1,500.
Doing some research she learned that arts organizations across the country have been stiffed by the Seattle-based company that has been in business for 20 years.
Moss said the money is important because any kind of live performance arts organization has been hit especially hard during the pandemic. BBTC recently added space for more programming, so the loss of the revenue comes at a bad time.
“What makes me the most irate is that they are still continuing to take money from people,” Moss said. “They are continuing to allow people to put up events without people knowing this is happening.”
Center Stage board member Matt Trgovac said Brown Paper Ticket owes their group more than $450. These are the proceeds from the first weekend production of “Don’t Drink the Water,” a comedy written by Woody Allen. Center Stage had to cancel the remaining weekends in March, however, they recently remounted the production for a final weekend at 7:30 p.m. June 26 and 27 and 2:30 p.m. June 28.
He said he has called Brown Paper Tickets numerous times, but lately the phones have not been manned. Email responses since May 21 have not been answered.
Neither group could afford to sue for the small amounts but might join a class-action lawsuit.
Trgovac said he heard of people buying a ticket and never getting the ticket or a refund.
“We’re doubtful,” Trgovac said about ever getting the money. “It seems very much up in the air. We’ve heard other companies have received checks from Brown Paper Tickets and those checks have bounced.”