Discounted tickets: forging a more affordable path to popular shows

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Graphic by: Helen Schrayer

Everyone has that friend who was able to see Hamilton, even though it’s sold out until January of 2017. The rest of us have to try our luck at the daily ticket lottery. While not all Broadway shows are as expensive as Hamilton, the average industry ticket price still hovers at around $100. Factor in the cost of a train ticket and a meal, and a New York trip can cost over $150—putting it outside the reach of students.

Luckily, there are quite a few different ways to score significantly discounted tickets to the very best theatre, dance, and concerts our area has to offer. These tickets are usually obtainable directly from the theater via Student Rush Tickets programs. Those seeking symphony concerts, ballet, or opera can use the Student Rush Tickets provided by the following organizations in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York’s premier performing arts complex: the New York City Ballet’s offer of $29 same-day tickets available to anyone under 29 at its box office, the New York Philharmonic’s offer of $16 tickets up to two weeks in advance, and the Metropolitan Opera’s offer of $25 same-day tickets online—all in prime seat locations. Most Broadway shows also offer similar day-of programs.

​However, most Broadway houses do not directly offer special student discounts. Instead, the Theatre Development Fund maintains a membership program for groups such as students, teachers, and artists that gives access to heavily discounted tickets in New York. This program’s annual fee of $34 allows members to purchase unlimited tickets to select Broadway, Off-Broadway, and dance performances for less than $47, which is roughly a 50–70 percent discount.

These rock bottom prices do come with a cost, though, as flexibility and choice are limited. Tickets are available no more than about a week or so in advance, often less for the most popular ones. The performances that are offered are usually on weeknights, making them only accessible during the summer. Although the most prominent shows such as Aladdin, The Lion King, or Wicked will not be available, many other very popular ones are: The Phantom of the Opera, The King and I, and more.

For the better lead times and selection, companies such as TheaterMania, Playbill, and TodayTix provide modest discounts (usually about 30 percent) on most shows. These allow the purchase of seats at many different price levels.  Each site has a different selection, so chances are the performance you want to see is included on one of their lists. Shopping around will yield more selection but not better discounts; each Broadway show offers the same markdown to all the companies that list the show.
If you do have a show you’re set on seeing but want a steeper discount than what the Internet can provide, a great way to get heavily discounted tickets in prime locations is through the TKTS booths in Times Square and South Street Seaport. These booths offer same-tickets to almost every Broadway show at a 50 percent discount, barring the most popular ones. Unfortunately, while the discount is steep, it is taken off the best available seats in the house, so you could end up spending nearly $100 anyway, which is out of the budget of some students.

There are, of course, ticket lotteries online to the vast majority of Broadway shows the day of the performance. Tickets are often front row and never cost more than $40. But this is really only useful as an option of last resort for the most popular shows—the online Hamilton lottery attracts up to 50,000 people daily for 21 seats. Don’t fret, though, as winning is not impossible! One PHS family won not once, but twice for the same performance, scoring them four tickets. While this probably won’t happen to you, there are still huge opportunities to see everything else, from Broadway musicals to Off-Broadway plays to opera. You just need to shop smart.

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