Broadway  
thick blue line

The Wall Street Journal News Press Release Article

Our Feature on The Wall Street Journal 2002 News Press Article

blue line The Wall Street Journal Press Release Article What do commercial airlines and Broadway theaters have in common, beyond cramped seats, negligible leg room, ill-mannered neighbors and sometimes iffy entertainment? In both cases, that woman on the aisle or that couple seated in front of you may have paid substantially less for their tickets than you did for yours. And there's a good chance they used the Internet to find their bargains.

Almost everybody knows about the Theatre Development Fund's TKTS booths in Times Square and at the South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan, which sell same-day discount Broadway and off-Broadway tickets (but at the Seaport, matinee tickets must be purchased a day in advance). You inch forward in the long line, squint to read the ever-changing electronic board listing 50% and 25% discount offers and then have to plunk down cash or traveler's checks for your tickets -- they don't accept personal checks or credit cards.

Brooklyn TKTS Booth The TKTS booth has its uses, but it's a relic of the 1970s, the theater equivalent of the Freddie Laker standby era of discount air travel. Today it's possible to reserve off-price Broadway and off-Broadway seats before you leave home, and to pay with a credit card. You need only a little Internet savvy, the kind you'd use to access airline bargains on the Web.

As with discount travel, restrictions and blackout periods apply and tickets may be limited. But theater honchos, like airline execs, abhor empty seats. So unless the show is a megahit like "The Producers," "Hairspray" or "Mamma Mia!" or you want to go during a peak period like a Saturday night, the odds are that if you are flexible some sort of discount to a production you want to see will be just a few mouse clicks and toll-free phone calls away.

Playbill On-Line (www.playbill.com) and TheaterMania.com are comprehensive Web sites that provide news, reviews, theater message boards and other invaluable features. Most important for bargain-hunters, they also let you sign up for free theater discount offers through Playbill On-Line's Playbill Club membership and TheaterMania.com's TM Insider discount club. And they'll send you regular e-mails to keep you up to date on savings.

Yesterday, for example, both were offering discounts on 10 Broadway shows, not to mention more than twice that number of off-Broadway plays and other events. Everything from shows that hadn't opened yet or were still in previews -- who knows, you just might be the first person on your block to see the next blockbuster -- to works that debuted this season but didn't wow all the critics, to critically acclaimed musicals and straight plays that are now on their second, third, fourth or 10th casts.

There was a lot of overlap in the two sites' Broadway lists, and a lot of range, with both offering discounts for "Flower Drum Song," "Tartuffe," "Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam," "La Boheme," "Say Goodnight Gracie," "Proof," "Hollywood Arms" and "Cabaret." But "Metamorphoses" and "Rent" were exclusive to Playbill and "Frankie and Johnny" and "Dinner at Eight" turned up only on the TheaterMania site.

To participate, you just print out the discount offer and take it to the box office; or phone Telecharge or Ticketmaster, using the number provided, and mention the discount code; or (if available) use the link to the online reservations site. The usual box-office, phone and online reservation charges and fees of under $10 apply, but they won't annoy you quite so much when you've saved some 20% to 50%, and sometimes even more, on the tickets themselves.

But not all discount codes make their way to Playbill On-Line and TheaterMania.com. Others are mailed on postcards, or even faxed, by the shows' producers to lists of potential customers to sell tickets weeks before a play reaches Broadway, to fill seats during previews or slack periods, or to pump up receipts when a show is nearing middle age or has received mixed reviews. That's where nytix.com comes in. Members of the public let the site know about discount code offers they have received. Nytix.com, as the middleman, passes along these postings, for free, on its site. You just click on a show to see what offers are available, then follow the usual drill in person, by phone or online.

Yesterday,Nytix.com listed many shows, some not offered on the other two sites. These included the "Man of La Mancha" revival with Brian Stokes Mitchell and "Imaginary Friends" starring Swoosie Kurtz as Lillian Hellman and Cherry Jones as Mary McCarthy. Both works begin previews later this month before officially opening in December.

And if you tell eight of your friends about nytix.com, you get on the site's priority list, which gives you "notification about Discount Codes before everyone else."

Well, friends, I think I qualify.