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.


  1. Interesting discussion about the ticketing process for Broadway shows. The demand is certainly there. The key is to make the tickets as available as possible using the methods you mentioned in your post.

  2. ust make sure to arrive with at least five minutes to spare before showtime, because they *will* bar the doors a minute or two prior, you *will* miss the overture and some of the first act, United Center seating chart
    and you *will* be ruing and lamenting your tardiness until the brief late-arrivers break (if you're lucky) or the first intermission (