OnStage New York Columnist
For all those theatre loving fans, summer break means trips to New York City to catch the newest and hottest Broadway shows. But how can you enjoy Broadway when you’re broke? Thankfully, there are a number of ways the Broadway community has made theatre accessible to everyone, even those on a budget.
Though many websites and apps may claim to provide cheap tickets, they are not as discounted as these three means, and they often rack up the prices with processing fees. Buyer beware with most of the apps.
Thankfully, there are three tried and true methods to get cheap tickets to any Broadway show. Here’s what you need to know about each option:
Rush tickets began in 1996, when “Rent” was the drawing in a whole new audience to the Great White Way. To help accommodate for the widespread popularity of the show, rush policies were made. Rush tickets are sold the day of the show when the box office opens, usually around 10am. The tickets are listed at a discount price, ranging usually between $25 and $45. However, the number of rush tickets available is limited, so hopefuls should arrive at the theatre prior to the box office opening to attempt to beat the potential crowds. Most theatres allow two rush tickets to be purchased per person. However, some only allow one, so it is wise to check the shows policies online prior to going to the theatre. There are three types of rush tickets. The first are general rush, which are available to the entire public. Student rush tickets are available with a valid student ID shown at time of purchase. The third is senior discount, which is available to seniors around the ages of 62 to 65 years old.
Most shows that do not have rush policies partake in a lottery. This allows theatre fans to enter their name in hopes of being picked to receive discounted tickets, usually priced the same as rush tickets. Lotteries are held the day of the performance, usually two and a half hours before the show begins. Winners are then picked two hours before the performance. In some cases, such as with shows like “Fun Home,” lotteries are held digitally. Digital lotteries, however, vary from show to show. “Fun Home” holds its digital lottery beginning at midnight each day through the TodayTix app. Others hold their lotteries through the shows website a few hours before the performance. Lotteries are much less reliable than rush tickets. Depending on the show and day of the week, a large amount of people could potentially enter the lottery. For instance, this season’s most talked about musical, “Hamilton,” holds a lottery in which twenty or so selected winners receive $10 tickets to the show. Only $10 to see Broadway’s hottest musical? Sounds great! But on average, thousands of people enter the lottery each night. This makes the chances of winning extremely slim. However, for shows that are not so new, such as “Wicked,” chances of winning the lottery are significantly higher.
When a performance is entirely sold out, some shows, such as “Chicago” and “The Color Purple,” sell a limited number of standing room tickets. These tickets, in which you must stand for the show, are available on the day of the performance. Usually priced between $20 and $30, each customer is allowed to purchase two tickets by means of cash or credit. Rush policies, standing room policies, and lotteries are the three most common ways to get discounted tickets to Broadway shows.
If you’re planning a trip to New York City to see a Broadway show, make sure to check the shows website to see what type of discount policy they offer. Thankfully, because of these policies, Broadway has been, and will remain to be, accessible to such a wide audience, including those on a budget.
As an avid broadway goer, who has the luxury of living within a stone’s throw of Broadway, I have been fortunate enough to see over 50 shows on Broadway. I am not here to brag but I am here to enlighten you on how you can both Broadway with the best and do so on a budget. This approach works for those of you who live locally and those who may be traveling from out of town to visit a Broadway theatre.
There are a few ways to get the most bang for your buck. I will outline them shortly, but the key I want to impart prior to diving into the good tricks of the trade is that yes, Broadway is related to retirement. The average American spends roughly $5,000 on a vacation for a family of four annually. Wow! This is nearly 10% of the average American income. What does this mean? It means we are overpaying on vacation, and every dollar saved reallocated to retirement is a good thing – well it’s actually a great thing. As you know, from my compound interest post (link this), $500 saved this year will be $5,000 in roughly 30 years from now. That is right, now imagine being able to take the grandkids on vacation, that is the life us here at Retirement Nut want to live!
Also, it is important to set up a bit of a precursor here. You must be flexible. Saving money is not the approach in which you can be very picky or choosy, yes, you have options but you need to be open to multiple choices! Before you stop reading, I will let you onto a bit of a secret, the play or musical you haven’t heard about that you just discovered will likely blow your mind as well. How do I know? Well, I saw The Play that Goes Wrong, before it was the award-winning show it is today. How? By dumpster diving as it were, looking for a diamond in the rough and we found it. I think we paid under $25 a ticket, it now trades for $125 for those same seats. This my friend, can be you as well while saving $100 a ticket you get the show of your life.
Table of Contents
How to save on Broadway tickets
(avoid during the holiday season and on the weekend) What is TKTS? They are an organization run by TDF which is a not-for-profit that has the goal of bringing the power of the performing arts to everyone. In other words, they are your best friend! Known for their Times Square location where they offer show tickets at 50% off. I use them regularly, but do recommend the alternative location. The best ROI on time and money has been the Lincoln Center location for us. By using the alternative location, you can avoid the chaos of Times Square.
Last minute deals on StubHub
Surprising, I know. Most of the time we think of Stubhub and paying a premium for tickets. There are always people that have bought tickets, canceled their plans, made different plans or were not able to get to the city in time. Just open up the app on Saturday night and find the best option for your price point! Problem with this is that you have to be flexible and might end up not getting a show. Many rainy, snowy, dreary nights, I have gotten a crazy deal.
Try the booth directly
That is right, tell them the price offerings you are getting online or via the TKTS booth. What is their job? To match it or beat it. If they are nice and friendly, they may simply ask “what are you willing to pay?” It’s time you simply negotiate and get the best price. Remember, if it’s not a full house, butt in the seat is better than an empty seat for the show! Know what the prices are other places and undercut. Remember they are there to help.
That’s it, it is that simple. You just saved roughly $100 per seat by simply being a bit smarter than your peers. Simply by reading this blog, taking a few extra minutes to circumvent the system.
I’ve never had a “bad” seat from buying Broadway discount tickets. Unlike the venues of today, most of the theatres you will visit on broadway were designed for a smaller audience. A few times I’ve had a slightly obstructed view, but it just made it hard to see an actor’s face in a scene or two — not for the entire show. That’s right, you just save $100 to simply miss a moment or two of action. That trade-off to me is well worth it.
There are times when paying full-fare or going to TKTS is worth it, if someone else is paying or you’re a tourist just in for a few days and want to splurge on a show (we bought full-priced tickets to Lion King as a gift for a friend). But for those who are willing to circumvent the rules, wait in line or go about it your own way, it is well worth it.
Now the key is to take that extra money you just saved and invest it wisely. Isn’t that what this is all about, planning for retirement now, not later?
10/3/2012 — By Kaeli Conforti
The bright lights of Broadway
It’s been a while since we’ve written anything about Broadway. We’ve already sung the praises of saving money on Broadway shows with TKTS and how to take advantage of standing room only, general rush and student rush tickets. Since our last story on Broadway ticket savings, there have been a number of great websites created to help you save even more money on Broadway tickets. Whether you’re a student, senior or just an admirer of all things theater, here are some websites you need to know about.
StudentRush.org offers free tickets—yes, you read that right—to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows on a regular basis. All you have to do to get access to the list is sign up for their “Will Call Club” emails. The only thing you have to pay is usually a $5 handling charge, depending on the show, that is paid via Paypal. You then receive an email confirmation and instructions as to where to meet the StudentRush.org representative. While the company is named StudentRush.org, the website states, “Anyone may join this site, although some of the discounts are restricted to current students with ID. All free ticketed events and non–ticketed events are available to anyone.” You’re able to purchase up to four tickets at a time; just pick them up from the representative before heading to the theater. Apparently it’s a seat-filler type of thing—show producers provide them with a certain amount of tickets for each available show. Remember to check back a few times a week for the most updated list of opportunities.
It should be noted that those under 35 are about to hit the budget ticket jackpot: The Roundabout Theatre Company understands that students and young professionals love going to shows but high ticket prices make that quite a struggle. Seeing our plight, they’ve come up with HipTix, a program that allows anyone between the ages of 18 and 35 to purchase $20 tickets to shows at their theaters. Just call their box office, sign up for HipTix and even order tickets (2 per person only) to a show—be sure you call to order tickets at least one month in advance as their shows tend to sell out quicky, so plan accordingly.
This next program lets theatergoers accumulate “Show Points” to exchange for discounted Broadway show tickets. Audience Rewards has you sign up for free using your email address, and you are given the option to earn points by playing trivia games about different shows, purchasing items from partner sites, or you can simply earn points by buying tickets to shows and listing your membership number during the ordering process. This is definitely one of those websites I wish I had found earlier.
For more Broadway (and Off–Broadway) discounts, you can visit websites like Playbill.com, BroadwayBox.com, and TheaterMania.com for general price cuts, or look up discount codes to your favorite shows at NYtix.com.
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We here at Theatre Nerds can hardly contain our anticipation as this season’s new musicals come rolling onto the Great White Way! From Dear Evan Hansen to the revival of Falsettos, it’s sure to be a remarkable and memorable season on Broadway. While we are determined to see every show that opens within the next year, ticket prices quickly add up and before we know it, we’re out of cash. Thankfully, the Broadway community has provided many different ways to purchase discounted tickets. While many apps and websites may offer a small discount, these are the three cheapest ways to get tickets to your favorite Broadway show:
Rush tickets began in 1996, when “Rent” brought a whole new audience to broadway. To help accommodate for the widespread popularity of the show, rush policies were made. Rush tickets are sold the day of the show when the box office opens, usually around 10am. The tickets are listed at a discount price, ranging usually between $25 and $45. However, the number of rush tickets available is limited, so hopefuls should arrive at the theater prior to the box office opening to beat the potential crowds. Most theatres allow two rush tickets to be purchased per person. However, some only allow one, so it is wise to check the shows policies online prior to going to the theatre. There are three types of rush tickets: The first are general rush, which are available to the entire public. Student rush tickets are available with a valid student ID shown at time of purchase. The third is senior discount, which is available to seniors around the ages of 62 to 65 years old.
Most shows that do not have rush policies partake in a lottery. This allows theatre goers to enter their name in hopes of being picked to receive discounted tickets, usually priced the same as rush tickets. Lotteries are held the day of the performance, usually two and a half hours before the show begins. Winners are then picked two hours before the performance. In some cases, such as with shows and “Fun Home,” lotteries are held digitally. Digital lotteries, however, vary from show to show. “Fun Home” holds its digital lottery beginning at midnight each day through the TodayTix app. Lotteries are much less reliable than rush tickets. Depending on the show and day of the week, a large amount of people could potentially enter the lottery. For instance, this season’s most talked about musical, “Hamilton,” holds a lottery in which twenty or so selected winners receive $10 tickets to the show. Only $10 to see Broadway’s hottest musical? Sounds great! But thousands of people enter the lottery every single day. This makes the chances of winning extremely slim. For shows that are not so new, however, such as “Wicked,” chances of winning the lottery are significantly higher.
When a performance is entirely sold out, some shows, such as “Chicago” and “The Color Purple,” sell a limited number of standing room tickets. These tickets, in which you must stand for the show, are available on the day of the performance. Usually priced between $20 and $30, each customer is allowed to purchase two tickets by means of cash or credit.
The TodayTix app was launched in 2013 by Tony Award-winning producer Merritt Baer and his childhood friend and fellow producer Brian M. Fenty. TodayTix is the first app to offer discounted, last minute theatre tickets. Buyers can check the app a few days in advance up until a few minutes before curtain to get great seats at discounted seats. TodayTix is available for free on both Android and Apple devices. For more information, visit www.todaytix.com.
Though tickets at the TKTS Booth may be a bit more expensive than methods already mentioned, it is still a great way to get discounted tickets at last minute. With three locations in New York City, the largest directly in Times Square, the booth sells unsold theatre tickets at up to 50% off. The booth also sells full price tickets to future performances as well as discounted day off tickets. For more information, visit www.tdf.org.
We are so thankful for these policies that allow us to get discounted tickets to our favorite Broadway show! For a full list of rush, lottery, and standing room only policies, GO HERE
So I don’t know about you but I am a recent college grad and don’t have tons of money to spend to see Broadway shows whenever I am in New York City. Between travel expenses, subway passes and buying food, finding a cheap broadway ticket can help a lot. Whenever you are on a budget you learn to be crafty! I have been to New York City a few times now and I have picked up on a couple of tricks that might be helpful for first-time theatre goers.
Tip 1- Rush Tickets
So most broadway shows allow something called “Rush Tickets”. Rush tickets are tickets that are sold usually on a first come first serve basis as soon as the box office opens for the day. Rush tickets are helpful because they are usually marked down from their normal price. For students- certain shows have special pricing for students so make sure you have your student ID with you and ask. It never hurts to ask especially if it can help you save a couple of bucks. When you are at the box office also make sure to ask them if the tickets are obstructed vision tickets. This would be tickets that might have your view obstructed by a overhanging balcony or a railing. It just nice to know just in case that is a deal breaker.
Tip 2- Standing Room Tickets
Standing room tickets are tickets that are sold where you basically stand up for the entire show usually in the back of the Orchestra seats. Standing room tickets are a great way to see a show that is usually sold out or is close to selling out to capacity. Since you are standing they can be cheaper than some seated tickets. Depending on the theater this is an awesome chance for you to be close to the show without having to pay for orchestra seats. The last time I was in NYC I was able to see The Boys In The Band for $99 which was a steal since the cheapest ticket they had was for around $160 in the back of the balcony. These tickets are also usually sold on a first come first serve basis as soon as the box office starts so I would recommend getting there early if you can.
So I don’t have a lot of first hand experience with TodayTix but I do have friends that have used it and they love it. Todaytix is a app where you can buy last minute theatre tickets. So say if you can’t make it to the box office you can order them and go to the theatre and there will be a person there to hand out your tickets. TodayTix also has a great platform that allows you to browse a lot of shows on and off-Broadway too. The ticket prices can be lower than normal price depending on the show. It’s a resource if you want to go that route.
Tip 4- Lotteries
Lotteries are a great way to see a show for the cheapest way possible usually. If you win the lottery you usually are able to buy a ticket at a significantly reduced price. Most shows have digital lotteries that you can enter in the day of the show. There are 2 type of lotteries , an in-person lottery and a digital lottery. Both lotteries have their advantages and disadvantages. For an in-person lottery you will usually go to the theatre and enter your name in person and they will do a live drawing there at the theatre. The advantage to this is that there is a percentage of people that won’t enter if they have to literally be at the theatre. The disadvantage to this is that if you don’t have a lot of time you might not be able to enter. For a digital lottery you basically enter your name usually in a app format and the names are selected and if you win you will be called or emailed. The advantage of this is that you can enter from anywhere, you usually just have to collect your tickets within a certain amount of time. The disavantage is that since anybody can enter your chances of winning can be lower.
Tip 5- Go To The Box Office Before Showtime
Going to the box office before showtime is the latest trick I have discovered. If a show isn’t sold out sometimes you can get a ticket for pretty cheap just because they would rather have someone in the seat than for there to be an empty chair. I went to the box office where “Six Degrees of Separation” was playing back in 2017 and was able to get an orchestra seat for $33!! I wouldn’t recommend doing this for a show you desperately want to see but maybe for a show, you wouldn’t mind seeing for the right price!
In short doing your homework can definitely help you decide which avenue you want to go down to get a cheap theatre ticket! If you are on a budget and are looking to save a buck or two here are 5 of the tips I have come across. For any information on current broadway rush/lottery policies check out “Broadway Rush, Lottery, and Standing Room Only Policies“. In the comments below tell me about any tips I missed on getting cheap tickets or tell me about a cheap ticket you were able to score!
Travel smarter. Travel Longer.
When in New York City you might have the urge to go see some theatre. How can you not want to with all those beautiful billboards screaming at you?! Mamma Mia! The Lion King! Book of Mormon! There is really something for everyone. Even if you’re not a traditional musical or theatre fan I bet I could find something to appeal to pretty much anybody.
Some people, like yours truly, head to New York just for the chance to see one of the big shows on Broadway. Back in my home town of Brisbane, Australia we get maybe 4 shows a year, one at a time. So when I get to New York City it’s a huge treat for me to have my pick of what to see.
Unfortunately, Broadway for broke people can be pretty unachievable and those Book of Mormon Broadway tickets can be upwards of $90 for the nosebleed seats plus all the crazy fees they want to charge you for the honour of seeing their show.
On my first trip to New York City, I had no idea what a broadway lottery was and so opted for what I thought was the best option to buy cheap broadway tickets – TKTS. Since then, I’ve visited many more times and seen some great shows and now have a handle on my favourite thing – the Broadway lottery!
Here are some tips to help you save your pennies so maybe you can pack in more than one Broadway show on your trip to New York City.
Generally a lottery allows you to put your name in the running for an allotment of tickets that are significantly reduced. The number of tickets available change daily depending on how many seats are left for that day’s show. Lottery winners are awarded a double pass but if you’re attending on your own, which is also common, you can often indicate that you only need one ticket at the time of entering your name.
The lotteries usually open two to three hours before a show, there is a half hour to an hour period where people can enter their names and then once the time is up they will draw the winner. For in-person lotteries you have to be there to accept your ticket and for the online version you’re usually given a set period of time to accept and purchase the tickets before it’s offered to someone else.
For shows that have an evening and matinee performance, there will be two times that you can register. A lot of lotteries, like The Book of Mormon, also offer amazing seats for lottery winners, often front row.
Visit Broadway For Broke People for advice on which websites and apps you need for a particular digital lottery or what time the in-person lottery opens.
This is the lazy man’s lottery. You can log in each morning, register for whichever shows you’re interested in seeing and then go about your morning until you get notified a couple hours before the show whether you’ve won or not.
Before you arrive you can start downloading some of these apps to get an idea for what shows are available for online lotteries. Most of the digital lotteries seem to be accessible on the TodayTix app.
Visiting one of the in-person lotteries is an experience you should try at least once! There is a great atmosphere amongst all the other theatre goers and it’s like gambling but it doesn’t cost anything, unless you win of course but then it’s like a nice present to yourself.
There are several very popular in-person lotteries, one of which is The Book of Mormon in person lottery. There are often 200 entries in this lottery. The guy who runs the lottery turns the experience into an event and even has his own Twitter account. Follow him at @lotterydude.
You can either time it so that you arrive just before the lottery closes to put your name in (but be careful!) or arrive while it’s open and then grab some lunch or a drink while you wait. I enjoyed taking the opportunity to explore some new bars and eateries while excitedly waiting for the lottery to close.
My last post on production budgets took us through the beginning of a show’s development all the way through the first preview; here, we’re going to talk about how expenses are budgeted on a week-by-week basis after the show gets up and running.
In the simplest terms, the show’s producers want the gross box office receipts to exceed the weekly operating costs, thereby turning a profit every week that can be put towards the overall return of capital to their investors. The bulk of the operating costs don’t fluctuate much per week – salaries will more or less remain constant (despite variations in who’s on in what part), as will administrative and departmental fees – but weekly royalties are where it gets a bit tricky.
Anyone who makes a contribution to the creation of the show, be it the executive producer who helped secure the rights to the material or the lighting designer, gets a royalty payment every week. This goes for future productions of the show in arenas other than Broadway, too, such as regional productions or tours. As long as those creative elements are utilized in a production of a show, royalties will follow suit.
However, those royalties are unfixed when it comes to a weekly budget. If a show is doing poorly and not generating much in the way of box office sales, for example, many of the creatives will defer their minimum weekly guarantees, which means that the payment they would ordinarily receive every week for their contribution to the show gets deferred into a pool that will theoretically be returned to them when the show begins to fare better down the line, then finally repaying the royalties it owes. Of course, since the vast majority of shows on Broadway don’t recoup, those who elect to defer royalties will likely never see that money unless the show has a solid reserve or ends up exploiting the stock/regional rights. (Royalty pools and the organization thereof tend to be pretty confusing unless you have hands-on experience with them, especially if amortization is introduced, although this site gives a very tidy overview of the process.)
Every show has its own unique royalty structure and expenses, of course, but a typical budget drawn up to account for a show’s weekly operating costs will contain the following items:
- Salaries (principals, ensemble, standby, stage managers, wardrobe, dressers, musical director, company managers, general manager, press agent, marketing office, production manager, music contractor, arrangers, casting director, rehearsals/work calls, star per diem/car service/living, catering, company payroll taxes, company union fringe benefits): $150,000
- Advertising & publicity (print, TV, radio, outdoor, artwork, website, broadcast): $100,000
- Departmental (carpenter, automation, props, electrics, sound, wardrobe, hair, makeup, company managers): $5,000
- Equipment rentals (automation, electrics, lights, sound, projectors, special effects): $40,000
- Theatre expenses (operating expenses, air conditioning, house manager, box office staff, cleaners, ushers, ticket takes, stagehands): $130,000
- General & administrative (general manager office fee, executive producer fee, legal, accounting, insurance, closing reserve, phones, postage, photocopying): $20,000
- Royalty guarantees (author, underlying rights, adaptor, director, choreographer, designers, orchestrator, producer, co-producers): $10,000
This puts our weekly expenses at $455,000, which is in the median range for a Broadway show. Plays tend to run much more cheaply since they don’t usually require large casts or any musicians, whereas musicals will often be quite expensive to run. A two-hander play with a unit set might run at $300,000 per week, for example, while a lavish Rodgers & Hammerstein revival might cost $750,000.
Although it may seem like a show that capitalizes at $6 million has a far greater chance of achieving recoupment than one whose capitalization approaches $12 million, the real key to financial success on Broadway is keeping the weekly operating expenses as low as possible – the cheaper a show runs, the more producers can send back to their investors every week.
13 Tips to See a Broadway Show for Less
There are two things you absolutely must do when visiting New York City: go shopping and see a Broadway show. Unfortunately, both experiences be fairly expensive. While you can always window shop to save money, tickets to see a Broadway show can put a severe strain on your travel budget.
Happily, there are several tips and tricks that can land you a seat without too much financial damage. Here’s a sampling:
Follow These 13 Tips Before You See a Broadway Show
1. Hit Up the TKTS Booth
This booth is located in Times Square and sells tickets for 25-percent to 50-percent off the face value. It takes a bit of planning, but it’s well worth the savings. Besides, you were going to visit Times Square anyway, weren’t you?
2. Wait Until The Morning of the Show
Many theaters reserve some excellent up-front tickets for sale early in the day of the performance. Check what time these tickets go on sale, then arrive about an hour early to stand in line. Keep in mind the line grows shorter the longer the play is into its run. This doesn’t hold true, however, for extremely long-running shows, like “Cats” and “The Lion King.”
3. Check Online for Tickets
You may be able to bypass that queue on the morning of the show by looking online first. Broadway.com posts last-minute deals on the day of the performance starting at 10:30am EST. Requests are accepted until 4:30pm EST and can land you 25-percent off popular shows like Wicked.
4. Take Time in the Middle of the Day
As with movie tickets, tickets for matinee shows are offered at cheaper prices.
5. Attend Broadway on Broadway
Go for free with the annual outdoor Broadway on Broadway Concert Series, being held this year on Sept. 9.
6. Stand Up
Head to the box office for standing-room-only tickets. Your feet might get sore during the show, but you may end up paying as little as $25 per ticket.
7. Avoid the Great White Way
Forget the big-time shows and take-in an off-Broadway production. The tickets are much cheaper and you’ll find some excellent productions. Plus, many Broadway shows go off-Broadway after their debut so you can catch those popular shows for less. Also know that many popular shows tour the nation, so you can catch an award-winning production and avoid the hassle and cost of a trip to the Big Apple. Check with your local performing arts center or visit the Broadway show’s official website for tour details.
8. Use Gift Cards
Ticketmaster offers discount gift cards through such websites as GiftCardGranny.com. With gift cards, you can purchase tickets from the comfort of your home and still save.
9. Check Out a Preview
Usually, attending a preview show is as good as hitting a production during its standard run. You’ll save on tickets and get a jump on the crowds.
10. Use Your Student I.D.
Save on last-minute (aka “rush”) tickets by using your student I.D.
11. Attend Kids Night
Kids Night on Broadway offers free admission for children ages 6 to 18, with one full-paying adult in attendance. This event only happens once a year, so make sure you check the website for the scheduled date.
12. Watch for Daily Deals
Keep an eye on discounted gift certificates to various shows on Groupon, Living Social and Dealery.
13. Register for Special Deals
Theater Mania Insider offers an e-newsletter that allows you to check out user reviews, keep up with the latest shows, and take advantage of special discounts. A Playbill Club membership also offers special promotions.
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers.