Saturday, January 22, 2011

How to Save Money on Theatre Tickets in New York and Chicago

Times Square Ballet

If you’ve visited Times Square in the past couple years, you’ve probably noticed at least one of three big changes. 1) The enormous LED screens and advertisements now surround you with constant movement and changes of color and light. 2) You can walk or sit at small café tables in the middle of Broadway. The Great White Way is now a pedestrian mall! 3) There is a glowing mountain of red stairs in Father Duffy Square, a great place to check out the view of Times Square and a place where many tourists go to save big on theatre tickets.

Of course, I’m talking about the new TKTS booth, operated by the Theatre Development Fund (TDF) You can save 20%-50% off full priced theatre tickets on the day of the performance at one of three locations. Tickets availability and the shows offered are always changing. There’s no guarantee what you will find there each day, but now there is even a free iPhone app and soon there will be an Android version, so you can see what’s available before you make the trek down to get in line.

I’m not going into any great detail about any single way you can get discounted tickets because there are so many different ways to do it. Broadway tickets have jumped to nearly $150 for orchestra seats, which is a steep price to pay for anyone on a budget. I thought I’d share a few of the different ways I’ve been able to get some great discounts, even on some of the must-see shows of the season.

First, I don’t recommend doing a Google search to try and find cheap tickets. Many of the websites that come up in the search results are actually ticket brokers that will charge you more than the actual face value of the ticket! They’re really clever in their wording too-- trying to convince you that every show is sold out and only they have tickets. I avoid these sites. If you want to buy tickets at full price, I recommend buy them from or Some theatres have actual box office ticket sales but most shows are sold through one of the two mentioned companies.

Join the Playbill Club at In my opinion, it is the best source for news about Broadway and Off-Broadway shows and becoming a member entitles you to numerous discount offers and opportunities. You can access offers in the member section of the site and you’ll receive occasional emails with addition opportunities to save. It’s free to join.  Make sure you check out the Insider Info column for show schedules, upcoming shows, and shows with ticket lotteries, standing room tickets, and other unique discounts.

Another free members-only saving club is Audience Rewards, The Official Rewards Program of Broadway. . You earn points for purchasing tickets to select shows, answering trivia questions and a variety of other ways. Points can be redeemed for discounted theatre tickets, merchandise and more. When you go to redeem your points, make sure you scroll through all the offers because shows often have multiple offers and some are much better than others. Last March, I redeemed points and purchased tickets for 9 to 5 for $30 and Next to Normal for $40 through the program; the seats were center orchestra, in the first ten rows. (I was sitting next to people that paid $120 for their tickets!)

Nearly every Broadway show, national tour, Off-Broadway show and local and regional theatre companies across the country have websites. Many have email lists you can sign up to receive up dates, discount offers and more. I highly recommend signing up on these sites. This is an easy and excellent way to find out about discounts and news about productions in New York and in a city near you.

Some other ways to save are ticket lotteries, student tickets, rush tickets, and standing room tickets. Many theatres offer these discounts but nearly every theatre also handles them in a different way. I recommend checking with theatres individually for what offers they have available.

Two other websites I have used to find special discounts are and

Chicago Discounts
Chicago has a discount ticket service, similar to TKTS in New York, called Hot Tix. . Hot Tix is operated by the League of Chicago Theatres. Similar to TKTS, there are physical locations where you can go to purchase tickets through Hot Tix, but you can now purchase many of them online through their website. Another convenience, tickets are sometimes offered for multiple performances on several days and not necessarily just same-day ticket sales.

If you’re looking for National tours, then check out Broadway in Chicago. . One way you can save money on hot shows is by subscribing to the BIC series. Make sure you sign up for their mailing list. They frequently have discounts and give you advanced notice of tickets before they go on sale to the general public. Some shows even show up on the Hot Tix list from time to time.

Whatever you do, make sure you shop around. Theatre marketers use a variety of discounts and offers to fill their seats. They also hold seats for the producers, so some times you can get prime tickets, even the over priced VIP seats (can run $300), discounted, when they are released a day or two before the performance.  Depending on when you want to go, how hot the show is, and how much you are willing to pay, there is a lot of great theatre out there to see. Going to dinner before or after the show? There are a lot of discounts out there for dinner savings and packages as well. If you just do some research and plan ahead, you might be able to save a bundle on a great night out on the town.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Numbers and the New Year


This past week, numbers have been on my mind a lot. To start with, the first day of the New Year, 1.1.11 has significance in numerology and psychic circles. Math geeks all over the world love to play with numerical repetition. The number ‘11’ itself is believed to hold mysterious powers. The time 11:11 is believed, by some, to unlock positive gateways to the mysteries of the universe. Really? Interesting. No matter what you believe, its fun to think about.

I started my class in Entertainment Business Finance this week. While I am not a math whiz, my mind is full of liquidity, assets and ratios—and occasionally, two Tylenol. I’ve found as long as I start my projects early, take breaks and give myself time to process all the information; I’m able to complete my assignments successfully and have a good grasp on the content. I never cease to be amazed at how my mind suddenly connects and I’m able to truly understand, what up to a point, seems like Greek to me.

The Cast of In the Heights
My third number connection, this week, has been related to the many Broadway show closings. Every time a large number of shows end their run near the same time, you hear people crying out that it’s the end of Broadway. All you have to do is look at the numbers and see this is not true… especially this year. Nearly every Broadway Theater was full at the end of 2010 and there are productions waiting to fill the stages of all the theaters being vacated this month. By the end of January, 16 shows will have closed but of those, three were limited runs (Elf, The Pee Wee Herman Show and Donny and Marie), two were long running shows that are touring the U.S. (Next to Normal and In the Heights) and one is scheduled to re-open in March (Rock of Ages). Unfortunately, Women On the Verge of A Nervous Breakdown, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and The Scotsboro Boys (closed in December) were unable to find their audience or suffered primarily from negative reviews.

Historically, my biggest interest has been observing the percentage of seats filled. I suppose the main reason for this has been my frequent end-of-the-year trip to New York to see everything I can possible cram in to that visit. This year, I didn’t make the trip, having been there in March. I still watched the numbers with interest.
The percentages for Thanksgiving week were some of the lowest I’ve seen for that period. Usually, the theaters are filled to near capacity during holiday weeks. At first I was somewhat concerned, but then quickly realized, there were at least 10 more productions competing for the consumer dollar than over the past few seasons. It really does matter how you look at the numbers.

As an outsider looking in, you could look at the overall holiday grosses and see a strong banner performance for Broadway. The grosses are strong, but then you have to remember, that tickets prices have gone up $20-30 (on average) this year, per ticket. If you look at the numbers from the viewpoint of an investor or producer, you’re probably looking at the higher percentage of empty seats in addition to the bottom line. Marketers have had to work twice as hard, with so many productions running, to compete for those important holiday tourist dollars. When you factor in the increased ticket costs, the number of competing productions and the percentage of empty seats; this season may not be as impressive financially, as it is at first-glance. It is all about how you spin the numbers.

Finally, today marks the closing of a successful and award-winning Broadway run of the musical, In the Heights. When the final curtain falls on tonight’s performance, it will have completed an impressive 29 previews and 1,185 performances. Earlier this week I was listening to the cast number 96,000. In the story, that is the amount of the current lottery. The characters pin their hopes and dreams on winning that magic number. It doesn’t seem to me like a lot of money but everyone looks at numbers differently.

I want to take this moment to wish each of you the happiest New Year. May you find your magic number as you journey on.


Global Numerology: The Meaning of 11:11. Retrieved January 5, 2011 from

Hettrick, A. Broadway Shows Closing in January. Retrieved January 7th from

In the Heights Official Website. New Year pic from around the world. Retrieved January 6th, 2011 from Broadway Grosses. Retrieved January 7th, 2011 from