Ideally, all of the drama at today’s HD broadcast of the opera "La Cenerentola" will be on the screen and not in the seats at the Beacon Theater, where overly officious enforcement of the Pittsfield theater’s ban on food brought in my patrons during the opera "Cosi fan tutte" two weeks ago triggered a flurry of letters to the Eagle editor. Other patrons, some of them former patrons, related their unhappy stories, and in recent days, other writers have come to the defense of the Beacon and its policies.

The Beacon policy is not rare or unprecedented, but its enforcement appears overzealous. An assistant manager who is not particularly friendly in a people-friendly business is regularly criticized by letter writers. The theater must make a distinction among its audiences. The crowd at a late-night screening of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is far more likely to be sloppy than the matrons and other patrons at an afternoon opera. Embarrassing them over their water bottles and apples invites justifiable anger.

Theaters must make money from selling concessions to be profitable, but it is decidedly unprofitable to chase away patrons angered by overly aggressive enforcement of policies designed to steer them to the concession stand. The Beacon is admirably serious about cleaniness, but the popcorn and sodas sold by the theater are far more likely to make a mess of the place than a few sandwiches and pieces of fruit.

The Beacon is of critical importance to downtown.


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Audiences should respect its policy on "contraband," but the theater must use discretion in enforcing the ban, and it should be respectful, not confrontational, when it chooses to enforce it. If all parties do their part, peace may return to the Beacon, beginning this afternoon.