Theater 101: Best Way To Buy Broadway Tickets
Broadway, New York City’s very own theatre district, is teeming with fabulous shows and breathtaking performances. A good time is all but guaranteed at a Broadway show, but often the tickets can be too pricey. Wondering if there’s a way to score great seats for some of the best shows on Broadway at heavily discounted prices? The short answer is yes! The long answer, well, that’s what this article is all about.
The Broadway Ticketing Process
Like most live performances or concerts, a certain number of seats are released for Broadway shows as well. These seats are sold to different vendors who then sell them to interested customers. There are seats reserved for Lotteries and some for TKTS booths too, which we will get to in greater detail further down this guide.
Online portals, box-office, lottery, giveaways, TKTS, are some of the most popular options for people looking to buy Broadway tickets at a discount. The price and the way to buy tickets for each of these options also varies significantly.
Where To Buy Broadway Tickets
Let’s look at where to buy Broadway tickets in detail and breakdown each type:
Given our dependence on all things tech and the internet, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that online portals are the biggest marketplace for Broadway tickets. Most theatres tie up with ticketing websites like Telecharge and Ticketmaster to offer Broadway tickets online. Then there are third-party vendors like Headout which offer the same tickets at a discount of 20%-40%.
Buying Broadway tickets online comes with a great set of advantages:
- When you book Broadway tickets online, you can make a booking months in advance, up to 2 to 3 months.
- Given that you’re booking months in advance, you can get the best seats in the theatre while paying a considerably lower price.
- Most online portals organise their own lotteries and giveaways, which are a great source for scoring cheap Broadway tickets.
- The undeniable comfort of planning your Broadway adventure from the confines of your home is unparalleled. Most other modes of procuring Broadway tickets involve standing and waiting around in queues a lot, which can get tiresome pretty fast.
Like we mentioned previously, Headout, an online concierge for great experiences, including the best Broadway shows, offers tickets for a considerably lower price than most competitors. Also, Headout is the only third-party ticket seller apart from TicketMaster/Telecharge, which allows users to select specific seats. Other advantages include:
- Discounts and cashback offer for some of the best Broadway shows
- 24-hour customer support
- 100% secured payments
- Printouts not required.
If you don’t to get your tickets online, you can head to the theatre Box-Office where the show of your choice is playing and buy your tickets there. Getting your tickets directly from the theatre box-office has it own advantages:
Buying Broadway tickets online comes with a great set of advantages:
- Some online portals auto select the seats for you, denying you the option of picking the seats you want. When you directly book your tickets from the box office, you can select the specific seats you want, if available.
- If you get lucky and get a good box-office person, they will help you find the best seat in the theatre, based on their experience. This is especially great for people who are going for their first Broadway experience and have no idea which seat they should opt for.
- Another advantage of box-office ticket booking is that you don’t have to pay the service charge some online portals levy. Headout, an online concierge, on the other hand, doesn’t charge any service fee.
- Again, if you get lucky, you might come across someone who is looking or sell their tickets for a discounted price because of whatever reason. Most of these potential sellers usually hang around the box-office of theatres to find potential buyers and can get you a great deal on the tickets.
Next up we have the supremely popular TKTS booths. Unlike the previous two options, TKTS tickets are only available on the day of the show, allowing little to no planning time. Despite this slight limitation, TKTS is a great option for buying cheap Broadway tickets. Depending on their availability and demand, the tickets are sold at a discount of anywhere between 20% to 50%!
Managed by the Theatre Development Fund of New York, there are four TKTS booths in NYC , one each in Times Square, South Street Seaport, Downtown Brooklyn, and Lincoln Center. Out of the four, the Times Square booth is the most popular given its proximity to most Broadway theatres.
Here are the advantages of buying your Broadway ticket from a TKTS booth.
- Given that TKTS booths sell tickets for the same day as the performance, it’s a great option for last minute plans! Not too last minute, though, since the tickets are sold first come, first served. If you’re planning on watching an evening show, the tickets for it will be available only post 2 PM.
- TKTS also allows you to save a ton of money on tickets for some of the hottest shows on Broadway. The way this works is that ticket inventory and availability for a show changes constantly throughout the day. Over the course of the day, theatres who have tied up with TKTS send tickets to the booth, based on how the show is selling. If a show is not selling that well, expect the discounts to be higher than for a show that is doing quite well in sales.
- The Times Square TKTS booth has a separate queue for only “Plays” for people who don’t want to watch a musical. This not only aids in neatly categorising the queues, but also helps the line move faster since there’s no confusion.
Tickets for certain shows like Chicago, Beautiful: A Carole King Musical, and Groundhog Day are generally available on TKTS booths, while shows like Aladdin, Hamilton, and Anastasia are not. Here’s a helpful list of shows that are available on TKTS.
Given its dynamic nature, TKTS booths constantly update tickets prices, after taking the demand and ticket availability into consideration. You can actually compare TKTS prices between this week and the last to see the difference for yourself.
Despite all these advantages, one thing that doesn’t work in favour of TKTS is that you don’t get an option to choose your tickets. When you reach the counter, the staff will give you whatever is on top of their stack of available tickets. Most often the tickets are for the orchestra section and very rarely for the mezzanine, which means you could potentially get great orchestra seats at half the cost!
Overall, TKTS is great for patrons who have made a last-minute plan and don’t mind watching the show from whatever seat is available.
While often clubbed together because of their similar, probability based outcome, rush tickets and lotteries have quite a few differences. Let’s look at each individually, in detail:
There’s a lot in common between TKTS and rush tickets. “Rush” is the term for day-of, first-come-first-serve seats sold at the theatre box office. Most theatres generally release these tickets as soon as the box office opens. There are two subcategories of rush tickets:
- General Rush: A person of any age can purchase these tickets, no restrictions.
- Student Rush: This type of rush ticket requires a valid student ID.
While rush tickets can get you great seats for the show you wish to see, it requires that you roll out of bed early to stand in line before the box office opens, depending on the popularity of the show. But all that effort is worth it if you can get to the front of the line, which basically guarantees you a ticket.
To give you an idea of how rush tickets work, let’s look at Present Laughter, Broadway’s newest hit comedy. Rush tickets for the show are available for $42 at the Lyceum theatre box-office. One user can only buy 2 tickets at a time and the seat location will be decided at the discretion of the box-office. Similarly, you can find the rush tickets rules and regulations for all the show that conduct them, online.
Like the name suggests, a lottery involves you entering your name in a raffle organised by theatres, in the hopes of getting lucky and winning a seat. All you need to do is pay the fixed price for the raffle and wait for the results to be announced.
The great thing about lotteries for Broadway tickets is that, unlike rush tickets, you don’t have to wake up early and you have as much a chance of winning as anybody else. Basically it involves zero effort on your part and if it is your lucky day, you stand to win coveted seats for a Broadway show without spending a ton. To further add convenience to the process, many theatres organise the lottery online, negating the need to visit the theatre to buy the lottery tickets and wait there for the results to be announced.
5. Theatre Development Fund Membership
Yes, you guessed it right. This is the same organisation that organises and maintains the TKTS booths in four different location in the city. The Theatre Development Fund (or TDF, as we would refer to it as for the rest of this article) is a non-profit organisation with the main objective of ensuring that theatre seats become accessible to everyone.
Not everyone can become a member of the TDF, though. Here’s a handy list:
- Full-time students
- Full-time teachers
- Recent graduates (up to age 26)
- Full-time union member
- Full-time government employees
- Full-time arts professionals
- Members of the armed forces
- Full-time clergies
Once you become a member by proving your eligibility within 10 days of applying and paying a nominal annual fee of $34, you can get access to discounted tickets for Broadway musicals, plays, and Off-Broadway shows as well. Each member can purchase up to 9 tickets per booking at unbeatable prices! So even if you’re not eligible, but know someone who is, you can basically get discounted Broadway tickets without much hassle.
The only disadvantage of securing your tickets through the TDF is that you don’t get to choose your seats. A fixed price is set for each section of the theatre and tickets are allocated based on availability.
6. SRO Tickets
If you really want to go watch a Broadway show and the tickets are just not available, there’s another option you can go for, a last resort of sorts. We are referring to the Standing Room Only tickets. Like the name makes abundantly clear, these tickets don’t get you a seat inside the theatre, but a place to stand and watch the show. Typically, the standing room section is placed after the last row of the orchestra and, in some cases, the last row of the mezzanine.
While not the most comfortable of options, the decidedly low prices for SRO tickets make them kind of worth it. Do remember that SRO tickets are available only when a show is sold out and only some there’s a limited list of theatres that sell them. You can find a comprehensive list of theatre that sell SRO tickets and their details here.
Broadway Ticket Pricing And Availability
Now that you’re aware of the different ways you can buy Broadway tickets, let’s move on to the different factors that should be considered when purchasing a Broadway ticket. From the show you’re watching to the section you want to be seated in and the date and time of the show, everything has a bearing on both the availability and the prices of the seats.
Let’s look at each factor in detail and try and figure out a way for you to buy discounted Broadway tickets.
With 41 theatres, each playing a different show, there are a lot of options you can pick from. And then there are countless Off-Broadway shows too!
Each of these shows vary in popularity with both theatre critics and audiences alike. Popularity is the primary component when it comes to how high a particular show’s tickets are priced. The same concept applies to the availability. A show that has been getting rave reviews from the critics and is being enjoyed by the theatre-going audience as well, will have higher priced tickets and limited availability when compared to a show that, while good on its own accords, hasn’t been able to create a positive buzz.
Take for instance, a blockbuster show like Hamilton. At present, it’s almost impossible to get good seats for the show for months on end and the tickets that are available are being sold at more than 100% of the price of any other show playing currently. On the other hand, a show like Charlie and the Chocolate factory, with a considerable fanbase, but lukewarm reviews, is very much available and not that expensive.
The question remains, what kind of a show do you want to watch. Is it for the experience of live theatre, the pure joy of witnessing performers singing and dancing to fabulous tunes, and the innovative staging most Broadway shows boast of? Or is it something more specific than that and about a particular show you have always wanted to watch?
Depending on your answer to the question, you can go about securing tickets for your Broadway experience. If it’s just about the experience, you can always find tickets online on platforms like Headout and if it’s a very specific show you need to watch and tickets are pretty much non-existent, you can opt for anything from TKTS to rush tickets or lottery. If that doesn’t work, you can book Broadway tickets online for a date when they are available in the foreseeable future and plan your trip accordingly.
The next factor that affects the availability and price of tickets is the seating in a theatre. Like we have mentioned in our many theatre seating charts guides, a typical Broadway theatre has three primary sections, namely, orchestra, front mezzanine, and rear mezzanine. Each theatre has a slightly different version of these three sections, plus a box section on either side of the orchestra. There are theatres like the Imperial, currently playing Natasha, Pierre, And The Great Comet Of 1812, which have undergone quite a bit of renovation to accommodate the show’s story.
One thing that does remain constant is the pricing for each section. Here’s a look at each section of a Broadway theatre and the average price.
The section closest to the stage and the only one not elevated, orchestra is arguably the most popular too. Offering a mostly unobstructed view of the stage, orchestra seats are some of the most coveted and expensive seats in any theatre. On an average the price for premium orchestra is upwards of $250, while the rear orchestra seats generally start from $175. Again, this also depends on the popularity of the show. We have cited Wicked, an immensely popular yet old show, in our example above. A show like Hamilton, on the other hand, functions outside the average price range given its intense popularity, with premium orchestra seats being sold for somewhere around $850!
The first of the two elevated levels, front mezzanine also has some of the best seats in a theatre, especially the front row centre section. Generally, the first few rows of the front mezzanine experience the most demand, given the clear view they offer. Given this, the tickets for these first few rows sell in the same range as the premium orchestra seats, at around $225-$250. The other seats fall in the range of $130-$160, depending on the show you’re planning on watching and its popularity.
The last and furthest away from the stage is the rear mezzanine. While offering an average view of the stage, the ticket prices for this section sometimes are the only choice for those looking to see popular Broadway shows on a budget. The average price range for this section falls anywhere between $75 to $115, or more in case the show is generating a lot of positive buzz.
Our recommendation when it comes to seating is to go for whatever seat is available, except the seats you know have an obstructed view or are at extreme corners of the theatre. This is especially true for popular shows. You can still be a little picky with shows that have a lot more seats on offer.
*The average prices mentioned above are for mainstream Broadway shows only. Off-Broadway shows are priced appropriately lower than this.
The Date and Time
The last but equally important factor for determining the price and availability of a Broadway show is the date and time. Let’s look at how each of these impacts the price and how you can get great seats for popular shows without spending a truckload of money.
While it might seem obvious, Broadway tickets pricing is extremely dynamic and constantly changes in accordance with a show’s demand and other factors. What are these “other factors”, you ask? The date for the show!
You’ll notice a considerable difference on the prices for weekday shows vs. weekend shows. Generally families and working professionals flock theatres on weekends and the prices are appropriately high. College students and school trip kids, on the hand, prefer the weekdays, which is why the prices are relatively lower than the weekends.
Tickets for Broadway shows during the holiday season, including Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day, among others, also see a spike in the prices, mostly because people have holidays during these days and that’s the perfect time for a Broadway-themed family outing.
Availability of seats is also similarly stacked on weekdays vs. weekends. If you’re a tourist visiting New York City with the intention of watching a Broadway show, we would suggest timing your visit so that you can watch the show during a weekday. If you’re a local, who is not a college student, well, unless you can take off from work to Broadway show, your best bet would be to find great deals and discount codes for Broadway shows online.
Just like the date of a show affects its price and availability, so does the time. In the Broadway community, shows are mounted twice a day, in two phases, generally called matinee shows and evening shows.
Matinee shows are basically afternoon shows, generally starting anywhere between 12:00 PM to 04:00 PM, while the evening shows, as the name suggests, begin anytime after 07:00, although no show begins after 9. What’s been noticed about both the prices and availability of shows during both the phases is that evening shows are generally sold out before the matinee and the tickets are more expensive for the evening shows. The main reason is that most people prefer stepping out during the evening instead of going out in the middle of the day.
You can use this fact to your advantage and score good seats for a popular show by picking weekday matinee seats.
Like a complicated math equation, the Broadway ticket prices are determined taking into consideration all the factors we have mentioned above. The show, seating, date, and time, work in different permutations and combinations before settling on a final price. Like we said, the entire process is very dynamic and changes within seconds, depending on the above factors.
If you’re looking for cheap Broadway tickets, our next section will help you out further:
Best Way To Buy Broadway Tickets
Closing out our Broadway discount tickets guide is a list of curated tips and tricks that will answer a pressing question you might be pondering over; “how to get cheap Broadway tickets” :
- Watch out for deals and offers from online portals for discounted Broadway tickets. Headout, an online concierge for instance, offers first time users a $8 discount coupon and other cashback deals.
- Even if you’re not eligible for a Theatre Development Fund membership, you might know someone who does. A member can get upto 9 tickets each time they book and these tickets are generally offered at hard-to-find discounts.
- This is more of an advice than a trick, but if you’re planning on getting rush tickets or tickets from a TKTS booth, it’s best to get to the respective venue as soon as you can. Die-hard fans often camp out outside the venue in the hopes of securing great seats and depending on your level of enthusiasm for the show, you can do the same.
- Most Broadway ticket selling websites allow you the option of signing up for their weekly or monthly newsletter. Generally getting these emails can get pretty annoying but if you are looking for cheap Broadway tickets, here’s an insider secret. These emails generally have discount codes and other offers related to specific shows that you can make good use of.
- Don’t be adamant about the seat you wish to watch the show from. Unless you don’t care about spending too much money, that is. A little flexibility during seat selection will help you save a lot of money!