Variable Pricing For Broadway Tickets
Now that variable pricing has been introduced to Broadway, will other shows follow suit - and how will ticket brokers and discount ticket sellers adapt?
For years, the Broadway theater has been stuck in an old pricing model. Every performance, whether the most popular Saturday night show, or the less favorable Wednesday evening show, has priced its tickets the same. After years of continuing with this outdated ticket pricing structure, the more sensible alternative of variable pricing has finally reared its head on Broadway.
Chicago Shows the Way on Broadway
If you walk into the lobby of the Ambassador Theatre, where the long-running hit Broadway revival of the jazzy musical Chicago is playing, you'll now see a large screen up on the wall next to the box office windows. It shows the interface of a computer screen, which lists the ticket prices for the various sections of the theater for today and each day of this week, as well as a "Future Prices" section. While it may just seem like a more fancy version of the pricing plaque that is usually placed on the wall by the box office, the point is that the box office staff can now easily change these prices at will, depending upon how sales are going that day. Looking at the screen, you will most likely see differences between the pricing on the more popular performances (Friday and Saturday nights, Saturday and Sunday matinees) and the less popular (mid-weekday evenings).
Will Variable Pricing Catch On?
Though it remains to be seen whether or not the rest of Broadway adopts variable pricing, it's hard to imagine that other Broadway shows won't now that the precedent has been set by Chicago. In the digital age there is little excuse not to take on a more nuanced pricing structure if it will result in more $$$$ at the box office. What is still uncertain is whether or not variable pricing will do that.
Variable Pricing Confusion
Many of the people who have been advocating a variable pricing structure have done so with the expectation that tickets for the more popular performances would be priced higher. However, a recent visit to the Chicago box office reveals that the popular weekend shows are priced less than the weekday evening performances, indicating that they have something else in mind. The pricing difference is small - just $5 - but it is curious. The working theory at the box office might be that people won't let a small price difference dissuade them from choosing the date that they want. So if a smaller number of seats are sold on weekdays, they might as well charge a little more for those tickets in order to make up for the fact that they won't sell as many total for that performance.
How Are Broadway Ticket Brokers Going To Be Affected?
It is difficult to predict at this time how variable pricing will affect Broadway ticket brokers. If Broadway shows start raising prices significantly on the most popular tickets (Saturday night at Jersey Boys, for instance), then they will become competitive with the Broadway ticket brokers and it will no longer be worth it for brokers to buy up good inventory and re-sell it. So far, at least with Chicago, that does not seem to be happening yet. And all Broadway shows already offer Premium Tickets, which are essentially their version of the kind of ticket you get from a broker (i.e. great seats for a popular performance at an outrageous price). With the Premium Ticket system already in place, the box office might not see the need to substantially raise the prices of the regular tickets. On the other hand, they could dispense of the Premium Tickets and just absorb those desirable seats into the variable pricing scheme.
Variable Pricing and Broadway Discounts
It is also a bit early to see how the various Broadway discount ticket mechanisms (discount codes, rush tickets, the TKTS half-price booth, etc.) are going to fare if variable pricing becomes standard on Broadway, but it seems unlikely that these discounts will disappear. Rush tickets, as long as they are offered, will always be in demand because the box office will never price regular tickets as low as $25, which is standard rush ticket price. Discount codes and the TKTS booth will also most likely continue to thrive among "in the know" Broadway ticket buyers because it wouldn't make much financial sense for the box office to start selling orchestra seats at half the current price, which is the kind of savings you often get using Broadway discount codes.