Half-Price Ticket Booths in U.S. and Canada
Fourteen cities in North America now operate kiosks where you can obtain seats to top shows for as much as half off
Fewer than 10 North American cities had them as recently as five years ago; now 14 operate busy outlets for reduced-price theater tickets. The reason? "An undoubted falloff in ticket sales" says Latifah Taormina, executive director of the Austin Circle of Theaters in Texas, "Nationally, subscriptions are down, as is the demand for individual seats. So half price is a way to get the paying customer into the theater. It's better than papering the house [issuing free tickets], and a real help to the performing arts." As a savvy tourist, you may want to keep the following list of discount-ticket booths and the times for using them.
Addresses: Midtown's outlet is the Theatre Development Fund's TKTS booth at the top of Times Square, 47th St. and Broadway; Downtown, at the corner of Front and John St.s. Hours of operation: For evening shows, the Times Square booth is open between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays; for matinees, arrive between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Sundays. Hours at the Downtown location are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. In addition, the Downtown booth sells matinee tickets a day ahead (you must buy Wednesday matinees on Tuesday, Saturday matinees on Friday, and Sunday matinees on Saturday). Discount amount: 25 percent or 50 percent. Method of payment: only cash or traveler's checks. Average time on line: In summer, as long as an hour; expect to wait between 15 and 45 minutes the rest of the year. Shows you'll get: In an average week, the TKTS booth will have available the majority of the shows currently on the boards (the week we last called, it had 65 productions on offer). You're unlikely to see the very biggest hits like The Lion King, Mamma Mia, Hairspray, The Producers, or Metropolitan Opera productions, but everything else is routinely sold. Tip: Theaters release tickets throughout the day, so you're no more likely to get a good seat at 3 p.m. than you are at 7:30 p.m. Thus, don't plan your day around getting to the booth early (some visitors foolishly wait an hour before it even opens); instead, show up when it is convenient for you. For information, visit tdf.org. Additional sources for discounts: Year-round, Web sites such as playbill.com and theatermania.com give their subscribers discount codes for advance purchase on shows (there's no charge to subscribe). While these rarely undercut the savings of the TKTS booth, they do allow theatergoers to purchase discounted tickets well in advance. Currently, the League of American Theaters is also supplying coupons for tickets (go to ilovenytheater.com), but in most cases, the resulting rates do not seem competitive with TKTS.
Address: The youngest of the half-price ticket booths, Coca-Cola Tickets2Nite has been in business for just under a year now. It's located, appropriately enough, right in front of the giant Coca-Cola bottle on the Strip, next to the MGM Grand and across the St. from New York-New York. It's a very Vegas scene, with large, plasma video screens playing 30-second clips from the shows on sale. Hours of operation: 2 p.m. to approximately 8:30 p.m., seven days a week (occasionally the booth will stay open later to accommodate late shows). Discount amount: 50 percent. Methods of payment: cash or credit cards (sorry, no poker chips!). Average time on line: from 15 to 45 minutes. Shows you'll get: The booth usually sells about 25 different shows a day, from the biggest names in town to the most obscure. Tip: Tickets tend to come into the booth in the early afternoon, so you'll get the best selection at 2 p.m., when the booth opens for business. For additional information, call 888/484-9264.
Address: TIX Bay Area is located in Union Square on Powell St. between Geary and Post. Hours of operation: Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Sunday performance tickets are sold on Saturday and Sunday.) Discount amount: 50 percent. Methods of payment: cash or traveler's checks only. Average time on line: 15 minutes; up to 30 minutes on Saturdays. Plays and activities on offer: In addition to discounting shows at ACT, the New Conservatory Theater, the opera, symphony, and touring Broadway shows, TIX acts as a Ticketmaster outlet and sells full-price events as well. To learn what's offered before you get to the booth, call 415/433-7827 or go to theatrebayarea.org.