If you love Broadway theater, you’re probably aware that there are often multiple discounts available for a given performance. But how do these discounts actually work, and how you can most easily find the price that you want to pay? Read on for the answers!
First, the best way to get discounts to Broadway, Off- and Off-Off Broadway shows is via the Show-Score "Member Nights" program, which is completely free. Simply score 6 shows you've seen, and you'll start receiving offers to see shows for free. Producers participate because they want to build buzz for their shows from avid theater-goers, like you. It's free to join, and scoring shows is fun and easy.
Now on to the details about discounts!
The first thing to understand is that different sections within the auditorium (such as Balcony, Mezzanine or Orchestra) have different prices. In addition, different performances can have different prices for the same seat (for example, a Tuesday night seat is usually cheaper than the same Saturday night seat). So when you see a really cheap price, it's probably for a seat that is hard to sell, either because of where it's located or the performance date.
Next, let’s define “discounts” -- we mean tickets that anyone can immediately buy, for current or future performances. “Discounts” therefore don’t include:
“Rush” tickets, which are sold for same-day performances. See our guide.
“Lottery” tickets, which are usually for the same day or next day performance, and are awarded to one or more winners. See our guide.
Student tickets (for which you need to have a student ID).
Tickets for which you first need to pay a membership fee (to become a TDF member, for example).
Tickets which are sold for a premium above face value, for high demand shows on specific nights. See our guide.
With that definition in hand, here’s what you need to understand about how discounts work:
Popular shows don’t usually have discounts for seats that most people want. When discounts exist, they are for seats that are hard to sell (rear corner mezzanine, for example), or for dates that are harder to sell (Superbowl Sunday, for example, or a major Jewish holiday). Simply put, the laws of supply and demand apply to theater tickets!
Discount offers exist to help producers find audiences they can’t easily find on their own. Often the best deals are found during “previews”, which means the performances that occur before the show’s official opening night. During previews, producers often use discounts to get audiences to try out a show, before the critics weigh in. These discounts often go quickly though, so trying to nab a ticket can be frustrating! After the show opens, producers can sometimes also offer discounts to entice new audience segments to see the show, or just simply to sell seat locations, or dates, that are not selling well.
Now that you understand the theory, here are our tips for nabbing the best prices:
Always check the online box office first (which for Broadway means Telecharge or Ticketmaster for most shows). Many shows price tickets based on demand, using a method called “variable pricing.” This means that the same orchestra seat on a Tuesday might be far cheaper than on a Saturday night. Producers also often put discounts on sales via the online box office AND the major discount sites, at the same time. In other words, start with the online box office.
Next, check the major discount sites. There are two kinds, which can be confusing:
“Discount CODE sites” (includes BroadwayBox, Playbill, Theatermania) These are all quite similar. The site gets a discount code from the show’s producer, and then sends an e-mail to the site’s subscribers. To use the code, you go to the online box office, find the “enter code” link, and then type in your code to unlock the deals. It’s a complex process. Be sure to pay attention to the offer details, which restrict the deal. That said, the good news with these “discount code” offers is that you end up with a defined seat location, sold by the official online box office, at a discounted price.
“Discount sites” (includes TodayTix, Goldstar, and more). These often have the same deals as the “discount code sites”, but there are big differences in how the purchase process works. First, instead of getting a code that you redeem at the online box office, you buy the tickets directly on the discount website. The checkout flow is therefore much simpler. However, you are often not given exact seat locations when you purchase; instead, you are told what section (such as “left front mezzanine”). If you know the theater well, that might be fine. If you prefer to know your exact seat location, then this type of site might not be the best fit for you.
Pay attention to fees! Like the airlines, theater ticketing sites (and some venues) add on fees. They can really add up! When you are comparing deals, look at the total cost of the transaction, not just the ticket price. Unfortunately, these fees are rarely visible until you’re about to check out (after you’ve already invested a fair amount of time). Most people just shrug and pay the fees. This can become very pricey, especially for a bunch of tickets. The best way to avoid these fees if you’re in NYC is to visit the box office in person, where you can usually get the same deal without the fees.
Try your luck at the “tkts” booth. This iconic method used to be the only way to get discounted tickets, but that’s no longer true. In fact, the major discount sites listed above often have the same or better deals -- many producers prefer offering online discounts, perhaps because those deals are less public than a neon sign in the middle of Times Square. Before you wait in line, though, understand that “tkts” tickets are usually only available for shows that are having a hard time selling seats, and that the tickets are only for the same day. For shorter lines, skip Times Square and go to one of the other ”tkts” booths (Lincoln Center, South Street Seaport, Brooklyn).
The bottom line is that discount Broadway tickets are available, but you’ll need to invest a fair amount of time poking around different sites to find them.
Have your own tips? Did we miss something? Did we get something wrong? Please take a moment to comment below so we can update this guide for everyone’s benefit!