Broadway show producers often increase ticket prices to their shows to match growing demand. It now appears that theater owners want to get in on the action.
Many Broadway theaters have just increased their facility fee charges to $2.00, making that the new standard amount for facility fees on Broadway in addition to the base ticket price, the convenience charge, and the per-order handling fee.
The facility fee (sometimes called the theater restoration fee, or the 3rd surcharge) is the only surcharge that you have to pay even if buying your tickets directly at the Broadway theater box office — unlike other Broadway ticket surcharges, this one comes from the theater itself, not the ticket agent.
In a way, it sounds like a classy sort of fee. After all, everyone wants those beautiful Broadway theaters to continue looking nice, and $2.00 doesn’t sound like that much when you just threw down $155 for a ticket. But when you really consider it, that fee is rather odd. You don’t pay any other industry an extra fee to simply maintain their place of business, do you? People wouldn’t normally pay a facility fee when they dine at a restaurant or shop at a store. If the Broadway theaters need money for upkeep, you would anticipate that they would factor this into the rent that they charge their tenants, the Broadway shows themselves.
The switch that many theaters made over the years from calling the fee a ‘restoration fee’ to calling it a ‘facility fee’ is also telling, since the truth is that none of them are actually guaranteeing that the money is going directly to theater restoration projects. The fact is, that little charge can add up to tens of millions of dollars annually for Broadway theater owners, making it an excellent source of extra revenue. It is unclear why they don’t just charge the producers of the show more rent, who will in turn increase the prices of tickets to their show.
In an article that Cara Joy David wrote for the New York Times in 2007 on ticket fees and surcharges, veteran Broadway producer Emanuel Azenberg was quoted as saying of the fees, “I think all of these things cumulatively are insane … Someone must have men in the back room making up names, euphemisms for profit.”
The facility fees have not always been uniform, and different theaters have charged different amounts over the years. Ten years ago, most facility fees were around $1.00 or $1.25, and $1.50 was typical for a very long time. But now $2.00 has emerged as the most common amount for the facility fee. (A few exceptions exist, such as Disney’s New Amsterdam Theater and Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater, which have no facility fee at all; and the Gershwin Theatre, home of Wicked, which charges $1.25.) Somehow the American theater managed to thrive for decades before fees were introduced in the ’90s, so these charges really do seem unnecessary.
Part of the reason the facility fee doesn’t get that much attention from Broadway ticket buyers is because they are already used to paying much higher surcharges directly to Ticketmaster and Telecharge. The popularity of phone ordering (much easier than traveling down to the box office in person, especially for tourists and out-of-towners) and the advent of online ordering provided an excuse for the “convenience charge,” which usually breaks down into two types of fees: the per-order handling fee (currently $2.75 on Telecharge, after recently being raised from $2.50) and the per-ticket service charge ($7.50 on Telecharge). There also may be additional charges depending on what delivery method you choose.
Broadway ticket buyers can continue to avoid the larger surcharges by making the trip to the Broadway theater district and buying their tickets directly at the box office, rather than dealing with the middle man that is Ticketmaster and Telecharge. But no matter how you purchase your Broadway tickets, that $2.00 facility fee will still be going from your pocket to the theater owners, at least hold the door open for me.