Scalper buys $650 of 'The Interview' tickets, now wants refund

An Ohio man thought he was being clever by buying up a block of tickets for the infamous movie. Then Sony decided to put it online.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Jason Best believes he deserves a refund, as his entrepreneurial scheme was diverted by Sony. WCPO-TV screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Entrepreneurs are the most venerated people on our Earth.

They create profit, jobs and admiring glances from people who just want to be intimate with their entrepreneurship.

Sometimes, though, the good ship Entrepreneur runs aground.

Take Jason Best. He's not best pleased. He heard that there would be only one theater in his region showing the great dramatic work known as "The Interview."

Surely, he reasoned, hordes of Ohio's freedom fighters would flock to see the movie starring James Franco and Seth Rogen and the exploding head of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. So he bought $650 worth of tickets, with profit the motive.

As he told WCPO-TV: "I saw all the hype about 'The Interview' on the 23rd and I thought, 'Hey, folks are selling these tickets in other cities. It seems like that's the thing to do right now and why not give it a shot?'"

His business instincts might seem a touch breezy to some. I'm not sure "that's the thing to do right now" is a thought that inspires too many successful businesspeople.

Suddenly, a spanner was tossed into his entrepreneurial works. Sony also decided to release the movie online. Which means that the freedom fighting hordes could watch it in the glory of their Christmas Day pajamas.

Best had paid $13 each for 50 tickets. Online, you could rent the movie for $6. Perhaps Best then thought to himself: "WWPTD?" Yes, What Would Peter Thiel Do?

So he went to the Esquire Theatre in Clifton, Ohio, and asked for a refund. The response was as positive as the movie's reviews in the Pyongyang Post.

Best, then, stopped the charge on his credit card. Now we're in difficult emotional and legal territory. The theater company's president, Gary Goldman, told WCPO that he doesn't consider Best a customer. Instead, he sees him as an entrepreneur just trying to make his profit explode.

Best countered that the tickets clearly say that they're refundable up to 30 minutes prior to showtime. Then there were intimations from the theater management that "The Interview" wasn't a movie, but a special event. Special events don't qualify for refunds. Best said that's the first he's heard.

Goldman told WCPO he's prepared to donate the $650 to charity. Best countered that he's prepared to donate only $100 of the money to a good cause.

With my head expanding involuntarily at these plot twists, I contacted the theater management to ask whether the tickets were actually refundable and whether it's prepared to push this dispute to the legal limits. I will update, should I hear.

One does wonder, though, whether Best tried to mitigate his losses by at least trying to sell some of the tickets, even if at a discount. There were surely some people, as there were in many cities, who wanted to experience the movie in larger format and in solidarity with their comrades.

In the world of scalping, though, there are good days and bad. Sometimes, you can wander near a theater or a stadium and discover that the market has spoken. Fewer people than expected might have wanted to see Kanye West in concert with Josh Groban at your local Roxy.

Scalpers might be offering tickets at below face value, just to get rid of them. They accept it as part of their business. (Although you never quite know whether the tickets are real.)

Best says his credit card company told him he's in the right. But might a compromise be reached here? Might the movie's creators get involved to support an enterprising attitude?

Rogen and Franco could offer Best a tiny part in their next movie. Perhaps he could be a body double in one of their legendary unclothed scenes.

After all, doubling is every entrepreneur's dream.