A much-anticipated “immersive” show of digitized Van Gogh, expected to open somewhere at some point this week, has been delayed, a spokeswoman for “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” said Monday, aggravating frustration from those who have already purchased tickets.
“Due to the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on global transportation logistics, we have encountered delays in shipment arrivals for the Philadelphia experience,” the spokeswoman said in an email. “Despite our best efforts to honor the scheduled opening date, ‘Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience’ will be delayed.”
Tickets, which range from $34.90 to $44.50 for adults, have been sold for shows beginning Aug. 12. Dates through Aug. 28 are now characterized as “sold out” on Fever, the presenters’ ticketing website. There is no indication of any canceled dates on the site.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for the show said a new opening date had been set for Aug. 26.
“We have alerted all ticket holders directly to the postponement, making sure they hear about the change from us firsthand,” a spokesman said in a Wednesday email. “We contact all affected ticket holders in a proactive manner and offer them options and as much flexibility as possible to choose new dates or get a refund.”
Another spokeswoman said on Wednesday that Fever had not yet completed contacting all ticket purchasers about the cancellations. She said that process should be finished by Thursday.
Adding to the frustration is the presenters’ insistence that the show be mounted at an undisclosed “secret venue.”
Jean Brubaker of Philadelphia bought 26 tickets in June for an August visit to the show by her women’s group. She has not been notified of the cancellation and has been unable to get any information about the venue, a refund, or an alternative date from the show’s operators. So far she is out $1,000, she said.
“The whole thing is just disgusting,” she said. “The surprise location was supposed to make it more exciting, right? But they’re not communicating with their ticket buyers. I bought the tickets in mid-June. My tickets are for the 16th of August. And I haven’t heard anything from them.”
She said she had sent multiple emails seeking information.
“I kept on trying to be patient and keeping my 26 people patient. At this point, I don’t know what to do.”
One Facebook user posted a few days ago that she had purchased tickets for Sunday but when she searched for her tickets on the Fever website, it said the show had been canceled, “but they’re still selling tickets. Can anyone shed any light on this?” The only response to her post was from another Facebook user who questioned the show’s legitimacy and said “it did the same to mine.”
The Better Business Bureau said it had received more than 600 complaints in the past year regarding the ticket operations and communications of Fever.
Specifically in Philadelphia, the show elicited eight complaints through July, which had been addressed by Fever, said Luana Lewis, senior vice president for programs and services of the Better Business Bureau, Metro New York.
All of these complaints were lodged between March, when Van Gogh was announced and tickets were first offered for sale, and July.
“There may be additional complaints passing through our complaint-processing system, which allows the company to make a response to the consumer,” said Lewis. “My understanding is there are pending complaints that staff are working on. Of those, none are from Philadelphia.”
Most of the complaints, which are readily available on the BBB website, involve pandemic-related cancellations, lack of a response from Fever, lack of refunds, and inadequate dates to replace canceled shows.
The state Attorney Genera’s Office said it has received no complaints about the show, but said consumers who feel aggrieved can contact the office at 717-787-9707.
Various company spokespersons stressed that pandemic-related precautions were a priority for the shows. How that might work practically could not be determined.
The exact nature of the pandemic logistical disruptions affecting the Philadelphia opening also remained unclear. But lack of a publicly announced opening date would seem to parallel the show’s plan to open at what they characterize as the “secret venue.”
A spokesperson said Wednesday that the so-called “secret venue” was located in Upper Darby and was not a factor in the postponement. Its location is undisclosed, he said, to “create buzz.”
“Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” was announced in March at the same time another “immersive” digital Van Gogh was playing in Chicago, receiving media attention and causing confusion among ticket buyers.
Corey Ross, president of Lighthouse Immersive, the producer of the Chicago Van Gogh, told The Inquirer at the time that ticket-buyers in New York were confused because both his Van Gogh and the Philadelphia Van Gogh planned runs in New York City.
There are now so many different Van Gogh shows touring the country, the Better Business Bureau issued a tip sheet for unwary consumers.
“Art lovers beware!” the tip sheet reads. “Several exhibits featuring post-impressionist artist Vincent Van Gogh are scheduled to tour select cities in North America, but they are offering different experiences. The soundalike names of the events are causing confusion, and some fans are frustrated that they bought tickets to one event but then realized it was not the one they wanted.”
The Philadelphia Van Gogh, which has been mounted in Atlanta, Miami, Washington, and New York, is being presented by entertainment producer Exhibition Hub and entertainment platform Fever.
“The challenge is that Van Gogh is in the public domain,” said Corey Ross, of Chicago’s Van Gogh. “There are five [shows] that I’m aware of that exist” that employ the artist’s work.