Arts - Autumn 2017

The Price Isn’t Right

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Premium ticket costs mean that Broadway shows are increasingly the province of tourists with deep pockets

(Bob Jiang/Flickr)

By Wendy Smith

September 5, 2017


 

I’m a native New Yorker and frequent theatergoer, which means I pay full price for Broadway shows as seldom as possible. But last January, after obsessively listening to the soundtrack for months, I broke down and decided to buy tickets for Hamilton. Although I knew they wouldn’t be cheap, we have a family tradition of splurging on orchestra seats for a Broadway musical to celebrate my son’s birthday. I also knew that in the mega-selling case of Hamilton, getting tickets for a show anytime soon was unlikely. Still, we were willing to wait—and pay full price.

When I walked into the box office of the Richard Rodgers Theatre, a man who had clearly been posted to forestall clueless folks like me asked, “Are you picking up tickets?”

“No,” I replied cheerily, “buying.”

“It’s sold out through August,” he said. “There are some tickets beginning in September, from $449.”

Those are premium tickets for the best seats in the house, set aside by the producers of hit shows for anyone willing to pay top dollar for a hot ticket. Hamilton, at the time, had the highest premium prices on Broadway: up to $849 apiece for the most desirable dates.

“How about the regular tickets for $179 and $199?” I inquired.

“A new batch will go on sale online in a few weeks.”

“Are you telling me that the only tickets I can buy here at the box office are premium tickets?”

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Wendy Smith is a contributing editor of the Scholar and the author of Real Life Drama: The Group Theatre and America, 1931–1940.


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