One-stop shop: Paramount to sell others' tickets

Although Tony Bennett grabbed the big headlines, one silent piece of the Paramount puzzle holds the promise of one-stop shopping for Charlottesville show-goers.

Right now it's just an empty shell with some impressive wiring and rich hardwood facade, but the on-site box office at the Paramount Theater promises big things for Charlottesville's performance-loving culture vultures.

Imagine three fully computerized stations, including a wheelchair-accessible window, where customers can buy tickets not only for Paramount shows but also for concerts, plays, and other events at venues throughout the area. That's the ticket-vending vision of Paramount executive director Chad Hershner.

"A lot of it is in process," Hershner says of his dream to make the Paramount a downtown ticket hub.

The Paramount plan entails printing and selling its own and outside venues' tickets at face value, with no surcharge (there will be a $5 fee for mailed orders).

Although no arts organization has yet turned down the Paramount's pitch to distribute tickets, box office manager Tracy Grooms-Key admits, "We haven't heard from everybody. A lot of people don't know we're offering this yet."

So far, the only group ready to actually utilize the service is the Oratorio Society of Charlottesville-Albemarle, which will stage its January 29 concert at the newly refurbished theater.

But what will be the impact of the Paramount's no-charge ticket service on area businesses that have benefited from drawing customers by serving as ticket outlets?

"It's an important vehicle," says Che Logan, assistant manager at Plan 9 Music in Albemarle Square. "I mean, it definitely brings them in."

Even though Plan 9 charges a variable fee on top of a ticket's face value, Logan isn't worried the Paramount's fee-free plan will compromise Plan 9's business.

"This is a town of convenience," he says. "If you're down there, you'll buy them; but I know people who won't drive downtown, not even to save a buck or two."

The view is different for Cal Glattfelder, owner of Sidetracks, a Water Street music store located just a few blocks from the Paramount.

"It wouldn't be good for me to have them do that," says Glattfelder, who adds a $1 surcharge to tickets he sells. "That's kind of strange– why would they do it for free?"

"Part of it, again, is being that good community partner," says Hershner. "We don't want to be the 800-pound gorilla in town. We don't want to be a nonprofit taking advantage of other nonprofits."

For now, with the box office under construction until mid-January, patrons have the choice of buying tickets in person at the Paramount's temporary offices on Water street or via phone, fax, mail, or at the Paramount's website,

But don't expect to see the familiar order form powered by local impresario Coran Capshaw's MusicToday. The Paramount opted to adopt ticketing software from another company that can integrate with fundraising and membership databases.

"That's something we currently do not do," explains Music Today executive Chris Walmsley. "It's certainly on our list of priorities."

A Hershner priority, however, is allowing the Paramount to keep track of customer information. He points out the theater's new ticketing software automatically updates the Paramount's entire system, and flags which shows customers prefer, enabling direct-mail campaigns and email "blasts" to be tailored to patrons' specific interests.

Regarding the Paramount's decision not to use Music Today's ticketing system, Hershner says, "When you have a resource like that right in your backyard, there's a desire to go with what's in the community, but we had to go with the software that best fit our needs." He adds that if Music Today enhances its software in the future, he's open to reconsidering.

In the meantime, Hershner is intent on making the Paramount's box office a fully wired, one-stop ticket shop.

One-stop ticket shop?