Hamilton in the West End Launches An All Out War With Ticket Brokers In London by adopting paperless tickets to that do not allow ticket transfer or resale
Hamilton Jumps Over The Pond To London’s West End
Hamilton is scheduled to open in London’s West End this fall and is due to begin previews on November 21, 2017. The show will have an official opening on December 7, 2017 and the red carpet opening is scheduled to be attended by members of the British Royal family, prominent British political figures and celebrities from both sides of the pond. Ticket availability is limited and booking has been restricted until June 2018. Already, Hamilton is causing a lot of theatre buzz with the fish and chip eating Brits, who have recently fallen out of love for anything remotely American due to the Trumps and the Kardashians, that now hold British TV hostage. The problem for the Brits is that Hamilton is about as all-American as you can get. A hip-hop tale about an American political figure from the past may not transfer over the pond that well since the British will not be familiar with the subject matter of the show or the workings of the American republic. Theatre producer Cameron Mackintosh, who wanted to bring the show to London since 2015 when he first saw it Off-Broadway at The Public Theatre, seems to think otherwise. He believes that Hamilton will fare well with the British audience, or at least with Americans that live in Europe or are willing to travel there to see it.
London’s Hamilton Production Is Sold Out Until June 2018
On June 13, 2016 Mackintosh launched its official Hamilton UK website where more than 100,000 people registered to get priority booking for Hamilton's West End tickets. The Victoria Palace Theater, owned by producer Mackintosh and previously home to the hit show Billy Elliot, is undergoing an “extensive multi-million pound” renovation as it prepares to house Hamilton.
The majority of the 1500 tickets for the West End version of Hamilton were made available for sale to the public on January 30, 2017 for what the show is calling “Booking Period One”, which is for the performances from November 21 2017 to June 30 2018. All these tickets were completely sold out in six hours. Producers will make the small amount of remaining tickets from Booking Period One (that they initially held back) available for purchase at the end of September 2017 as theatre renovations at the Victoria Palace come to completion. The exact date for the release of these tickets will be announced when the show producers know exactly what seats will be available after they have adjusted the size of the stage and seat configuration for the strict Hamilton requirements. Details about both the daily and weekly ticket lotteries will also be announced at that time. Hamilton on Broadway had to drop the in-person lottery as it quickly became out of control, so the West End version will probably figure out the same.
It is estimated that 70% of ticket buyers were actually Americans residing or travelling to the UK, who were quick to jump at the opportunity to see the top Broadway show for the amazing bargain that they are getting with the current USD-GBP post Brexit exchange rate. With such a high initial demand for tickets, producers are hoping to make more Hamilton tickets available for shows past June 2018 sometime in the beginning of Fall 2017, when they can build in dynamic pricing based on ticket demand to return even more money to the investors.
Hamilton Ticket Prices Are Set Low
Regular ticket prices to see the West End production of the beloved Broadway musical Hamilton are set at: £37.50, £57.50 and £89.50, although the first two weeks of previews are slightly lower. Producers have designated 295 seats per performance for the lowest price point of £37.50. Premium tickets are also available for £137.50 and £200.00. The theatre is going to be at least 100 seats larger than the Richard Rodgers theatre on Broadway, where the show is currently playing. Once Hamilton opens, theatergoers will get the opportunity to purchase a limited number of tickets through daily and weekly lotteries which are set at £20.00 and £37.50 appropriately. The daily in-person lottery is set at three times the price of the Broadway show lottery tickets (that are priced at just $10) and the weekly online lottery is set at five times the price. No additional booking fees are being added for any ticket purchases, but all prices may fluctuate later since Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda may have plans to reprise his role as the lead actor, Alexander Hamilton, in the London show sometime later during production. This strategy sounds very much like Sting in his Broadway debut show, The Last Ship, where he came in as an attempt to turn around an ill-fated show, with some success, but the similarity ends there as this show is already a proven entity stateside and should not need the help. Lin-Manuel Miranda may submit to vanity and do it anyway, just because he can.
Hamilton Experiments with Controlled Ticket Sales to Thwart Ticket Brokers
Not only is Mackintosh pricing tickets at a lower rate but he is also launching an all-out war against ticket brokers. In an attempt to cut out ticket brokers and maximize revenue for the show investors, the Victoria Palace Theatre has decided to implement a full paperless tickets strategy from day one. This is an industry first and remains to be seen how successful it will be.
Although paperless ticketing is actually legal in London and no other theater production has ever adopted this practice in the past, Hamilton is the perfect choice to test the paperless ticketing model and is now on the front line leading the theater industry in the latest battle against ticket scalpers. Hamilton’s method of ticketing only allows customers to purchase a maximum of six tickets per booking period and simply sends a confirmation email of the purchase to the customer. The customer will then, on the day of the performance need to present their original payment card, confirmation booking information and their government-issued photo ID in order to gain access to the theatre. People who wish to buy tickets with cash will probably be left out in the cold, as ticket brokers would flock to this method given half a chance. The official Hamilton UK web site indicates that patrons can only do this when the Victoria Palace Theatre Box Office opens in the fall 2017. The producers have been very clear that any ticket offered for resale, on or offline, will immediately be subject to cancellation of the entire booking with no refund offered. If patrons do wish to get a refund they will be subjected to a £3 cancellation fee. If done less than 48 hours prior to the performance tickets will be refunded at the producer’s discretion.
Will Broadway Follow Suit With Paperless Ticketing?
With the West End’s Hamilton production venturing into the unknown world of paperless ticketing, many are wondering if the original Broadway version of the show will follow suit. Broadway has fallen prey to ticket scalpers for many years and according to an economics professor at NYU Stern, it was estimated that last year, ticket brokers were making more than $2,000,000 per week profit from just from the Hamilton show alone. Even if paperless ticketing goes well in London, Broadway is far from being able to adopt the same practice. In 2011, with much opposition from hard-charging Charlotte St. Martin at the Broadway League, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that prohibits paperless ticketing in New York. Tickets are allowed to be presented in a paperless form but customers must be allowed to transfer or resell tickets at their discretion, which the League was against. New York state is the only state in the union that requires paperless ticketing to include a clause to allow for a free transfer; basically giving ticket brokers the green light to up the prices as high as the market can bear, cutting our regular Broadway patrons.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman strongly believes that the 2011 ban should be lifted and Broadway producers should be allowed to sell paperless tickets at their judgement. But other politicians refuse to back anything that would prevent consumers from reselling their tickets. Many argue that even with the paperless model that the Victoria Palace Theatre in London is embracing, ticket brokers will find ways around it, for example; like accompanying ticket buyers to see the show themselves. Time will tell if this technique will hinder ticket brokers. On the lighter side, no word yet if King George's favorite ticket broker will be putting money into Aaron Burr’s Go Fund Me page.