We love live theater but refuse to pay $200 for a ticket. Fortunately, there are better options out there than paying full price at the box office. And no, we’re not talking about TodayTix or playbill.com, where you can get $50 tickets...back row, partially obstructed, in the dead of winter on a Tuesday.
Stop seeing theater like a tourist. Here are insider tips for finding cheap tickets:
Seat filling services are the best kept secret on Broadway. Here’s the deal: shows don’t want empty seats because it’s bad for actor and audience morale. Producers give away excess inventory to seat filling services, who in turn distribute them to their members.
Seat filling memberships cost $100 - $200 per year depending on the service and your membership package. With the exception of the membership fee and a $4 - $5 processing charge, the tickets are free. Even an occasional theatergoer will quickly recoup the cost of membership.
The two major seat-filling services are:
There are many discount options for young people: the Roundabout Theater’s HIPTIX is a low-price ticket program for theatregoers 18–35. It's free to join and gets you $25 tickets to all Roundabout shows. For those who enjoy off-broadway shows, the Lucille Lortel Theater has a “TwentySomething Program” where you can buy $30 tickets if you’re under 30 years old.
The downside is these programs tend to a have limited number of youth tickets available for each show, and sometimes the seats are not ideal. Still, if you are under 30, make sure to look for a youth discount before you buy tickets to a show.
Lots of broadway theaters release a limited number of tickets for purchase at the box office everyday when it opens in the morning (around 10am, depending on the theater and day of the week). These types of discounted tickets are referred to as “rush” tickets. This can be a frustrating experience because you have to line up hours before the box office opens as they’re on a first-come first-serve basis. If you’re up for the challenge, you can get tickets anywhere from $25 - $45. Note that you generally need to pay in cash and they may ask for photo ID. There are also student rushes so look those up as well if that applies to you! You will need a current student ID.
Pro Tip: Look at how the show is doing by looking up ticket sales. You have a better chance of getting a rush ticket if the ticket sales are down because they’ll release more tickets for rushing.
Playing the Lottery
Some theaters raffle off around 15 - 20 discounted tickets for front row seats on the day of the show. Unfortunately, you have to be present to enter the lottery and they tend to raffle them off in the middle of the day so it’s not all that feasible for a working professional in NYC. But for you tourists, students with unusual class schedules, or people playing hooky from work, try it out. Just like with the real lottery, you shouldn’t expect that you’re going to win.