The In’s & Out’s of Ordering Theatre Tickets

September 11, 2009 § Leave a comment

So you know you’re going to New York, you have a pretty good idea of when, and you want to go to the theatre.

What’s On

Get online and go to the one source for all things theatre: The New York Theatre Guide.  On this site you will find a complete listing of the Broadway and Off-Broadway shows (alphabetically, musicals, plays), reviews, seating plans, and a map of the Theatre District.   The Guide also includes a list of Broadway Openings and Closings, enabling you to  determine what will be on when you are in the city.

Tip:  As the Guide mentions, the official “Opening” of a play or musical is the “Press Night”.  Reviews will be presented in print and online publications the next day.  However, most shows will have “Previews” one to two weeks prior to the opening.  If there is a show you are intent on seeing, check the Previews dates.  Another tip – if Discounted Tickets are available (see below), many times the ticket prices for Previews are less than the official run.

Purchasing Tickets in Advance

As the New York Theatre Guide indicates, you can order tickets in advance by telephone or online (you can also purchase tickets directly from the theatre box office if you are in New York).

There are two online sources for Broadway and Off-Broadway tickets: Telecharge.com and Ticketmaster.com.    They always handle different shows, which can be found on the Tickets for Broadway Shows page of the Guide.  In addition, the Roundabout Theatre sells tickets directly for some of its productions.   These are also detailed on Tickets page.

Ticket Delivery Options

Typically, you will be offered the following delivery options:

  • Email delivery
  • Delivery by the USPS
  • Delivery by FedEx
  • Will Call

If you have the ability to print out PDF documents, then absolutely go with email delivery.  Should you not have the ability to print the tickets yourself, then, depending on timing, you should request to have them sent by mail or you can pick them up at the theatre box office prior to the performance (“Will Call”).

Discounted Tickets

Yes, it is true, there are often discounts available.  You just need to know how to find them.  New Yorkers who frequent the theatre are usually in on mail and email lists which notify them of what savings opportunities are available.  You too can receive email notifications of upcoming shows and the best discounts.

Telecharge.com offers an email service whereby you can receive presale announcements, insider information and specially-priced offers.  Sign up here.

The New York Times provides TicketWatch.  Follow this this link to see  current offers, and sign up to receive the specials and advance notice for Broadway and beyond.

When an offer arrives in your email inbox from one of the two services, it will have a discount code to be used on the applicable ordering site.  Usually, you will find that weekday and matinee performances have the best prices and weekend evenings are the most expensive.  Also, as I mentioned above, the tickets prices during the preview period are often less than after the play or musical officially opens.  Flexibility is key.

Tip: There is one site which aggregates the majority of the discounts available.  I was unaware it until about a year ago, when my mother and I went to see “Billy Elliott”, and a woman, who was also an avid theatre-goer, mentioned it in the way that telegraphed that I obviously must have known of it existence if I went to the theatre often.  Well,  I did not know about it then, but I do now… BroadwayBox.com.

Broadwaybox.com lists all current discounts for Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.   As with the offers that arrive individually, you will be presented with the discount code and transferred to the associated site to complete your order.

In addition, BroadwayBox.com has a list of “High-Demand” shows.  These are the ones for which it is virtually impossible to secure regularly-priced tickets (forget discounts) because they are booked-out months in advance.  You can get tickets, but at a price.  Tickets will be available through legitimate ticket brokers.  When you select one of the high-demand shows on the site (e.g. “Jersey Boys”), you will be brought to a page that will ask you the maximum price you are willing to pay per ticket (usually several times the face value of the ticket).  If you have your heart set on seeing a particular musical or play, and you are willing to pay, this is the only game in town.

Once You are in New York

If you are already in New York and have not yet purchased tickets, by chance or by choice, then a visit to the TKTS Booth in Times Square is a must.  The booth, along with two others located at the South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan and in Downtown Brooklyn, are operated by the  Theatre Development Fund and sell day-of, off-price tickets.  Visit the TKTS Booth site for locations, directions, and hours of operation.

Tip: In late July there was an excellent article in the New York Times in which Erik Piepenburg described how to best take advantage of the newly refurbished Times Square booth (it visually stunning, especially at night) – when you will find the shortest lines, best availability, etc.

Don’t buy from ticket scalpers outside of the theatre.

Do take advantage of advanced purchase offers and preferred seating that may be available through your credit card company.

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