John Pilger Snafu Blamed on Ticket Sales

Less than 150 tickets sold

 Documentary filmmaker John Pilger's talk that had been scheduled at the Lensic Performing Arts Center tomorrow was canceled due to poor ticket sales, according to Barbara Ventrello, director of cultural freedom special projects at the Lannan Foundation.

Ventrello said less than 150 of the $6 tickets to the talk were sold; the theatre holds 820. 

"We had very poor ticket sales for the event, and with a theatre of 820 seats, we wanted to save [Pilger] and us the embarrassment of such a dismal appearance," Ventrello says.

The Lensic's box office couldn't immediately confirm the ticket sales to SFR because the tickets sold had been refunded. Bob Martin, general manager of the Lensic Performing Arts Center says he hasn't checked the ticket sales for that event.

Ventrello says a cancellation of a Lannan-sponsored event due to poor ticket sales has never happened before.

"Even our lowest-attended events usually have about 400 people in the Lensic," Ventrello says.

The tie-in event at The Screen, where Pilger's documentary The War You Don't See was to be screened, was also canceled at the same time.

"His trip was canceled—we therefore canceled the film screening," Ventrello says. "It had nothing to do with censorship."

Allegations that Lannan censored the film's premiere began circulating last Thursday, after the Lensic event was canceled Wednesday night. Martin tells SFR he got an email from Ventrello around 7:30 or 8 on Wednesday night simply stating that the event was canceled, and assumed it was due to an illness or other personal issue. Last Friday, Pilger penned an open letter to Noam Chomsky accusing Foundation president Patrick Lannan of suppressing free speech, noting that the Foundation didn't give him any explanation regarding the cancellation.

Martin says he rejected the censorship explanation from the start.

"The only thing I'll say is that what Lannan has done for Santa Fe in terms of the people they brought here and the fact that people are jumping to a negative conclusion without taking into consideration what they've done in the community, to me is sort of sad," Martin says.

Pilger couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Update: June 15, 11:32 a.m.

Martin tells SFR that the Lensic box office sold 150 tickets to the Pilger talk.


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