Half-Price Ticket Booths in U.S. and Canada

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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.

New York

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.

Las Vegas

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.

San Francisco

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.

San Diego

Address: The Arts Tix Booth is located in Horton Plaza in downtown San Diego. Hours of operation: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Discount amount: 50 percent. Methods of payment: cash, traveler's checks, credit cards. Average time on line: five minutes. Shows you'll get: San Diego is an active theater town with many distinguished playhouses, some of which consistently move shows to Broadway. You'll find all of the top theaters represented at the Arts Tix Booth, including the Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse, and San Diego Rep, along with many of the smaller, storefront theaters, local dinner theaters, dance companies, the symphony, and opera. As the booth also acts as a Ticketmaster outlet, it's a good source for touring Broadway shows (which may not be discounting), as well as tickets to concerts and other events. Getting discounts in advance: Unlike many half-price booths, Arts Tix has an online outlet (sandiegoperforms.com), which permits customers to reserve seats beginning at 6 p.m. the night before a performance. Since tickets are released by the theaters just once a day, usually the evening before, going online to buy is the best way to insure you get the show you want to see. For additional information, call 619/497-5000.

Washington, D.C.

Address: TICKETplace, Old Post Office Pavilion, 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. at 12th St.. Hours of operation: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Discount amount: 50 percent. Method of payment: cash, traveler's checks, credit cards. Average time on line: five to 10 minutes. Shows you'll get: Washington, too, is a real hotbed for theater, and TICKETplace offers discounts to many of the finest ones in the area: the Kennedy Center, the Folger, the Signature Theater, Washington Shakespeare Company, and touring Broadway shows. In addition, TICKETplace sells discounted seats for up to 70 different venues, ranging from special shows at the Smithsonian and Corcoran galleries (recently the much-acclaimed Jackie Onassis show was on sale) to opera, dance, concerts, and smaller theaters. More info: 202/842-5387, ticketplace.org. Hidden bonus: The ticket window is manned by performers, directors, and others involved in the Washington arts scene, and they give terrific advice on what's worth seeing and what should be skipped.

Boston

Address: BosTix operates out of two locations, Copley Square and Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Hours of operation: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Faneuil Hall location closed Mondays); Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed Patriot's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Discount amount: 50 percent. Method of payment: cash only. Average time on line: 15 to 20 minutes. Shows you'll get: There's usually a choice of about 30 productions and events at the BosTix booth, from touring Broadway shows and local theater to concerts and dance. For more information: 617/482-2849, artsboston.org.

Chicago

Address: It's hard to go too far in Chicago without hitting a Hot Tix booth. They're at 78 West Randolph, 163 East Pearson, 9501 North Skokie Boulevard, and at Tower Records stores around the city. Hours of operation: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday (West Randolph opens at 8:30 a.m. weekdays); noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Discount amount: 50 percent. Method of payment: cash only at Tower Records; other locations accept credit cards. Average time on line: less than five minutes. Shows you'll get: The greatest variety of shows are on the weekends, as Chicago plays host to numerous, small storefront and mom-and-pop theaters (Steppenwolf started this way!), but all in all, Hot Tix sells the shows of 140 different groups of all kinds. Occasionally, tickets are sold at a discount up to three days in advance, so be sure to ask. For more information and to see shows currently on sale, call 312/554-9800 or go to hottix.org.

Minneapolis

Address: TC Tix, first floor of the City Center (Seventh and Nicollet). Hours of operation: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Discount amount: 50 percent. Method of payment: cash, traveler's checks, credit cards. Average time on line: less than five minutes. Shows you'll get: Minneapolis is a theater hub, plain and simple. From wacky experimental shows to poetry slams to alternative-rock concerts to glitzy Broadway musicals, it's all here. And all of these widely divergent performances are sold at the TC (as in Twin Cities) Tix area of the Information and Visitor Center. To snag a particular show it's best to show up as early in the day as possible, as tickets are limited. The TC Tix booth is also a Ticketmaster outlet for those willing to pay full price (but does anyone do that anymore?). For more information and to see shows currently on sale, go to tctix.com. The list of discounted shows is posted at 10 a.m. each morning (you can also call 612/288-2060).

Cleveland

Address: C-Tix is located at Star Plaza, 1302 Euclid Ave., adjacent to Playhouse Square Center. Hours of operation: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays. Discount amount: 50 percent. Method of payment: cash, traveler's checks, credit cards. Average time on line: None--there's almost never a line, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland provides free parking to make the process even more hassle-free. Shows you'll get: touring Broadway shows, local theater, ballet, opera, concerts, and family entertainment. But interestingly, this is also a prime place for cheap tickets to events and attractions such as the Six Flags amusement park, many Cleveland museums, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. For more information: 216/771-1778, travelcleveland.com.

Atlanta

Address: AtlanTIX is in the Visitors Center of Underground Atlanta (sounds spooky, but it's actually just a big subterranean mall), at the corner of Upper Alabama and Pryor St.s. Hours of operation: Tuesdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Wednesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 3 p.m. Discount amount: 50 percent. Method of payment: cash, traveler's checks, credit cards. Average time on line: five minutes. Shows you'll get: On a typical Friday or Saturday, theatergoers have a choice of between 20 and 25 discounted theater pieces, concerts, and dance recitals. Matinee performances can be purchased one day before. Also on sale here are the High Museum of Art, the Zoo, the Atlanta History Center, even the Road to Tara Museum in nearby Jonesboro. More info: 678/318-1400, atlantatheatres.org.

Austin, Texas

Address: AusTIX, 3423 Guadalupe; Austin Visitors Center at Second and San Jacinto; and Book People at Sixth and Lamar. Hours of operation: Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 6 p.m. (The Visitors Center location is open Tuesday through Saturday, with half-price tickets available Thursday through Saturday; Book People is only open Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.) Discount amount: 50 percent. Method of payment: cash, traveler's checks, personal checks. Average time on line: none. Shows you'll get: theater, music, and dance from traveling shows to locally grown productions housed in the smaller venues. Some tickets are sold in advance, so be sure to ask. More information: 512/474-8497, austix.com.

Seattle

Address: Ticket/Ticket has three outlets in Washington: at the Pike Place Market; at Broadway Market, 401 Broadway East, 2nd level (between Harrison and Republican St.s), in Seattle; and at Meydenbauer Center, 11100 NE Sixth St., Suite 2, in Bellevue. Hours of operation: Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. (Pike Place until 7 p.m. except Sunday). Matinees go on sale the day before and the day of show. Discount amount: 50 percent. Method of payment: cash only. Average time on line: five minutes. Shows you'll get: performances throughout the Puget Sound area, with the best tickets going to those who snatch them up early in the day. Shows range from choral concerts to theater pieces to film-festival selections. More info: 206/324-2744, ticketwindowonline.com.

Vancouver

Address: Tickets Tonight, 200 Burrard St. (Plaza level). Hours of operation: Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets for Sunday and Monday performances are sold on Saturday. Discount amount: 50 percent. Method of payment: cash, traveler's checks, credit cards. Average time on line: under five minutes. Shows you'll get: touring shows such as A Night with Dame Edna and Porgy and Bess; rock, blues, folk, and jazz concerts; opera, ballet, and local theater. Get there early in the day to get the best seats. To learn which shows are available, call 604/684-2787 or go to ticketstonight.ca.

Toronto

Address: T.O. TIX, Yonge-Dundas Square, corner of Yonge and Dundas. Hours of operation: Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 7:30 p.m. Tickets for Sunday and Monday are sold on Saturday. Discount amount: 50 percent. Method of payment: cash, traveler's checks, credit cards. Average time on line: 10 minutes. Shows you'll get: theater, dance, comedy, opera, and music. Toronto takes its performing arts seriously, and there are serious bargains on a large number of shows to be had at this booth, the reincarnation of an earlier discount booth erected in 1983. To learn which productions are currently on sale, call 416/536-6468, ext. 40, or visit totix.ca.

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