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You’re headed to New York and heard all about that spectacular show with huge stars on Broadway. Figuring no trip to New York is truly complete without a trip to the theater — and you’d be right about that — you rush online to buy tickets, pull up the prices and — boom! — get knocked back by sticker shock.
How bad can it get? A single orchestra (lower-level) ticket to The Book of Mormon, one of the hottest shows on Broadway, will set you back $169 to $299, depending on the seat location and day of the week. And that doesn’t even count the $8.50 service charge and any handling fees.
But don’t panic! It’s easy to enjoy the spectacle of Broadway without breaking the bank.
Here’s the big secret: You rarely have to pay full price. Except for a few blockbuster musicals that sell out every night or the occasional, short-running play headlined by some A-list Hollywood star, discounts are everywhere. You just need to know where to find them.
Here are 7 ways you can save on tickets to most Broadway (and Off-Broadway) shows in New York:
You may have heard about the TKTS booth, an iconic fixture in Times Square for more that four decades, where tourists and locals alike line up to buy discounted seats for Broadway and Off Broadway shows that same day. TKTS also operates locations at the South Street Seaport in Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn where lines are much shorter.
The Good: All seats are 20-50% off, depending on the show, and it’s a fantastic option for someone deciding to see a show at the last minute.
The Bad: You’re never quite sure which shows will be available by the time you step up to the ticket window — and you’ll probably wait 30 to 60 minutes in line before you get there.
Insider’s Tip: Download the free TKTS app to track what’s available; visit the South Street Seaport or Downtown Brooklyn location to get next-day tickets for matinees only; and have a backup plan in case the show you want to see isn’t available.
Theater producers regularly offer discount codes you can use at online ticket sites — Ticketmaster or Telecharge are the two most common — or at the theater’s box office. Plenty of websites list these codes. Two are BroadwayBox.com and NYTix.com.
The Good: Discount codes can land seats that are 20-40% off, often on par with prices at the TKTS Booth, and you can buy them weeks or months in advance.
The Bad: Producers can revoke discount codes at any moment, without notice. When does it happen the most? After shows receive Tony Award nominations, win some major honor or rave reviews are posted on opening night.
Insider’s Tip: Codes have expiration dates, but it’s not unusual for new ones to be issued as an expiration date approaches. Also, if you’re already in New York, buy directly at the box office to avoid paying the service charges tacked on by Ticketmaster and Telecharge.
One of the best-kept secrets for finding truly cheapo seats is membership in the Theatre Development Fund, a nonprofit supporting the performing arts. Visitors living more than 100 miles from New York City can join for just $12 per year — less than the service charge for two tickets purchased online — and members enjoy huge discounts.
The catch: Not everyone qualifies, though membership is open to a lengthy list of people that seems to include everyone except middle-aged part-time workers or professionals in for-profit organizations. (Seriously, check the eligibility list to see if you or someone in your family qualifies.)
The Good: The prices can’t be beat and sometimes the seats are very good. Tickets run about $30 to $45 on Broadway, $20 to $30 Off Broadway and $9 Off-Off Broadway.
The Bad: You won’t know exactly where your seats are until you pick them up just before the show and only select dates are available for popular shows, if they appear at all.
Insider’s Tip: Monitor TDF listings regularly, since more popular shows often appear one to two weeks before the performance, and pay close attention to buying notes, including where your seats may be located and what theaters require when you pick up tickets.
In their ongoing effort to attract younger audiences, theater companies all over New York City offer free memberships that include cheap seats for people under 30 or 35 years of age. There are too many to list, but those staging Broadway productions include HipTix, LincTix and 30 Under 30.
The Good: The price, of course, which usually runs about $30 per show. Membership includes other benefits, as well, ranging from post-show parties to free stuff.
The Bad: There’s a limited number of member seats for each performance and, let’s face it, if you’re approaching middle age, you’re out of luck.
Insider’s Tip: Check membership guidelines for exact age requirements and join early if you’re out-of-town and want the best chance at the limited number of cheap tickets.
Some shows hold drawings where winners can buy one or two of the most inexpensive seats on Broadway. And sometimes those seats are some of the best, too — even on the front row, where the person sitting just behind you is paying $100 or $200 more. Rules vary, but most begin registration two-and-a-half hours before the performance and hold the drawing 30 minutes later. Details are available on official show websites, and Playbill.com publishes an overview of Broadway and Off Broadway policies.
The Good: Lottery tickets are dirt cheap, about $30 per seat, and it’s the only way to get cheap seats to blockbusters like Wicked and The Book of Mormon.
The Bad: There’s no guarantee you’ll win and lottery seats occasionally have a partial view (it will be stated in the rules). Oh, and make sure you bring cash; credit cards are rarely accepted.
Insider’s Tip: If you’re attending the lottery alone, double your chances of winning by finding someone else flying solo and agreeing to attend together if either wins.
Don’t want to take a chance on winning lottery tickets just before the show? Some theaters sell a limited number of lottery-priced discount seats, usually as soon as the box office opens, for same-day performances. “Rush,” as it’s called, is either for students only (“student rush”) or anyone at all (“general rush”). Details are available on official show websites, and Playbill.com publishes an overview of Broadway and Off Broadway policies.
The Good: You don’t need to hit the lottery to score some of the cheapest seats on Broadway and you can get your tickets early in the day — with plenty of time for Plan B if no tickets are available.
The Bad: The number of rush tickets varies by performance and there’s usually a limit of one or two per person.
Insider’s Tip: Arrive early! It doesn’t hurt to wander by a couple of hours before the box office opens and, if there’s no crowd, come back a little later.
Some theaters offer last-row seats for $30 to $50. These are not true discounts — they’re just the least-expensive seats in the theater — but you will be paying $30 less than the person sitting right in front of you.
The Good: You can buy these long in advance.
The Bad: If you buy online, you’ll still pay service and handling charges.
Insider’s Tip: Buy early! Since they’re few and cheap, they may not last long.
With so many options, it can seem daunting to navigate the world center of theater to find good seats at a good price. But the fact is you can find discounts — and even truly cheap seats — with just a little research. And if you end up saving $50 to $100 per ticket, that can be well worth the time.