How TKTS Discount Tickets Changed Broadway
The TKTS discount ticket booth has changed Broadway - But is there any going back?
TKTS Introduces Discounted Theatre Tickets in New York City
In June 1973, the Theatre Development Fund (TDF) introduced the TKTS half-price ticket stand.
This discount ticket booth, located in the very heart of New York City's Times Square, began distributing half-price tickets to Broadway shows on the day of performance. The TKTS booth became an instant hit with tourists and locals wanting to get good seats to a Broadway show for a good price. Today, one of the most common sights in Times Square is now that big winding line of people waiting for their turn to buy discount Broadway and Off-Broadway tickets at one of the booth's many busy ticket windows.
In recent years, as Broadway ticket prices have shot up dramatically, the discount ticket booth has become more vital than ever, providing people with a discount option to full-price Broadway tickets that have soared to well over $100 a piece. However, as theatergoers wonder why Broadway show tickets have become so unreasonably pricey, some people in the Broadway community theorize that the problem was, strangely enough, created by the TKTS half-price ticket booth itself.
Is the TKTS Discount Ticket the Cause of Rising Broadway Ticket Prices ?
The reasoning behind this theory is that, over the years, getting tickets at the half-price ticket booth has become such a normal practice for Broadway theatergoers that Broadway shows are now selling far fewer full-price tickets at the box office. In order to accommodate this situation, Broadway producers must raise ticket prices higher and higher, with the expectation that a large percentage of the shows' tickets will eventually be sold at half price anyway. It's at the point now where a half-price orchestra ticket from the TKTS booth is about $60 -- a decade ago, you might have gotten a full-price ticket from the box office for the same amount. In other words, it's almost as if these people waiting in that TKTS line are now playing the true full price of a Broadway show, and the people buying at the box office are paying double. If the discount ticket booth had never existed, the theory goes, then regular full price tickets would have never risen so high and would cost about the same as a half-price ticket currently costs. It appears that Broadway theatregoers are now conditioned for discounts on tickets, something that is hard, if not impossible , to undo.
Others argue that TKTS can't be blamed for the wild inflation of ticket prices by this logic because discount tickets were available long before the booth was established, back when producers used to sell "twofers" (two tickets for the price of one) to their more financially-troubled Broadway shows. However, it seems that those discounts weren't as commonly used by Broadway audiences as the TKTS ticket discounts are today. Broadway has become a largely tourist-oriented business, and New York City tourists gravitate to that half-price booth.
The TKTS Half Price Advantage
The obvious appeal of the half-price ticket stand is that is provides good seats to Broadway shows for half the ticket price (or, for some more popular shows, at a 25% discount). But, if the above-mentioned theory carries any weight, then it means that the TKTS booth isn't really helping ticket buyers. It's just asking them to wait until the last minute and stand in line for tickets that they could have -- if the half-price booth had never been created -- purchased in advance at the Broadway box office for nearly the same price.
But we also have to consider the impact of the physical existence of the TKTS stand. Its prominent place in Duffy Square, where any visitor to Times Square is sure to notice it, is a way of reminding tourists that Broadway beckons. Furthermore, once a potential ticket buyer has decided to try his luck at the booth, he is going to be exposed to an array of Broadway show possibilities that he may not have otherwise considered. This is a boon to the smaller or less popular plays and musicals that so desperately need to sell tickets in order to keep running.
The psychological power of discounting must be factored in as well. There is a mentality among many purchasers that an item is only worth buying if it's on sale, especially if the discount is as much as half price. So you can bet that many potential ticket buyers will be more amenable to paying the high price of a Broadway show if they feel like they're getting a deal.
The Future for TKTS
Broadway marketers, producers, and ticket buyers often argue about the pros and cons of the TKTS discount ticket booth. For every Broadway producer whose show benefits by having hundreds of leftover tickets sold at the half price booth each day, there is a second producer who is annoyed because the first producer's more high-profile show is taking away from her show's sales. For every Broadway fan who loves the half-price booth because he couldn't afford to buy Broadway tickets otherwise, there is another person who longs for the pre-TKTS days when full-price tickets were actually affordable.
Its clear that the TKTS booth encourages people to never pay full price for a Broadway ticket , but if no-one is paying full price, really - what is the point ?
No matter how long the debate continues, though, the reality is that TKTS discount ticket stand clearly has changed Broadway and it is now a fixture in the theater district. Its shiny new renovated home in Duffy Square, located smack in the middle of bustling Times Square, is proof that half-price tickets are here to stay.