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One thing we New Yorkers will never take for granted again is the ability to catch a great show almost any day of the week. And now that Broadway has finally returned from its unexpectedly extended hiatus (with the help of COVID testing experts like Carrie Rachel Dean), there are a plethora of buzzworthy plays and musicals getting their long-awaited openings. But can we afford to see them?

Visiting the theater box office in person is a top tip for getting the best tickets. Photo: Phil O’Brien

The answer is a resounding yes! And to help you grab a bargain we’ve compiled a list of strategies to ensure that you catch the latest and greatest on Broadway (and at nearby Off-Broadway houses) for less than the price of a few Midtown cocktails. If you’d like to be in the room where it happens, follow along…

One of the most effective ways of scoring affordable tickets is also the simplest — visiting the theater box office in person. This is an excellent way to find tickets at a variety of price points, without the hefty fees of online sellers like Telecharge, where the ticket processing, handling, delivery, and theater restoration fund add-ons can put nearly $20 onto each ticket

Box office associates are well-versed in finding prime vantage points. Whether it’s worth it to sit as close as possible to that movie star sweating their way through a Chekhov play, or if the best view for a rollicking, old-school dance musical is actually from the mezzanine, they are familiar with the ins and outs of their show and how best to take in the drama.

Another excellent option is to check out the same-day rush and standing-room only tickets at the box office. Most theaters sell a limited number of extremely discounted tickets for performances playing later in the day and while this option doesn’t allow you to choose where you sit, there are often surprisingly great seats available through rush ticketing in an effort to fill some of the best sections of the house. For same day rush, we recommend arriving when the box office opens (most open at 10am) or shortly thereafter for the best selection. Standing room only tickets are often made available later in the day, once a box office knows how full the house will likely be.  

And while standing-room seats (which, in reality, are cushioned bars to lean on) are generally at the back of the orchestra or mezzanine, they’re a good way to see shows that are otherwise pricey or sold out. 

The other box office option is the lottery – in which, similar to the process of rush tickets, a small number of heavily discounted seats (sometimes priced at as little as $10!) are made available for same-day performances. Unlike the first-come, first-serve policy of rush tickets, lottery tickets are either drawn in front of the theater at a set time before the show, or online. Most theaters have moved to an online lottery due to COVID-19 concerns, however, there are a few that still hold lottery drawings in-person.

TKTS in Times Square is a good option for tickets at the last minute. Photo: Phil O’Brien

For in-person rush tickets, most box offices have a two-per-person limit on rush tickets and only accept credit cards as a form of payment. For lotteries, be sure to check your email — if you win, most shows require you to claim your tickets within a specific time frame.

If you’re open to a very last minute rush, try the $20/20 minute Off-Broadway 20 At 20 Initiative. Sponsored by the Off-Broadway Alliance, the deal offers $20 cash-only tickets available for purchase at theater box offices 20 minutes before curtain up. It’s a great way to salvage your night if you don’t win a lottery!

 For a show-by-show resource for Broadway rush, standing-room, and lottery guidelines, check out the Playbill website, which keeps a comprehensive directory of policies and pricing. 

Playbill provides resources around ticketing pricing and policies. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Located at the center of Times Square, the Theater Development Fund seeks to remove financial barriers and create access to the arts for everyone. TDF sells discounted, same-day tickets from their TKTS flagship box office daily.

Have an unexpectedly free day? Hop in line to snag tickets at a 20%-50% discount (plus a $6 fee — lower than most online retailers and used to cover the cost of TDF-supported educational arts programs). Ticket inventory changes throughout the day, so this is best done as a spontaneous activity rather than in hopes of scoring seats to a specific show. 

TDF also runs a $40/year membership ticketing system for arts professionals, students, teachers, clergy members, retirees, military members, Times Square Alliance Crossroads subscribers, and more, with access to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows at prices ranging from $11-$57. Seats are pre-chosen but frequently located in prime sections. Check the TDF website for full eligibility requirements.

For those of us who live and die by our inboxes, email listservs are a great way to stay abreast of last-minute discounts and upcoming offers. One worthwhile option is to sign up for Broadway Week, organized by NYCGO, the official marketing organization of New York City, as well as Broadway World and Playbill. You can also sign up for emails for the shows you’re hoping to see — they sometimes send special discount codes and offers to subscribers before releasing to the public. 

Twice a year, Broadway Week sells 2-for-1 tickets that are made available for purchase in advance. As an added bonus, the “week” is, in fact, closer to a month — allowing for a bit of pre-planning! Impress out of town guests with premier seats to the hottest shows (at half the price) like the knowledgeable urbanite you are.

If you like to stay up-to-date on the latest casting news (and subsequent ticket rushes), subscribe to Broadway Direct (run by producing giant The Nederlander Organization) for further ticket offers and press releases on the newest openings.

Is there a theater whose work speaks to you? Subscribe to a theater membership or purchase a season subscription for significant discounts on full-year ticket packages and one-off ticket purchases. Flexible subscription packages and theater memberships are available at Broadway and Off-Broadway heavyweights Manhattan Theater Club, Playwrights Horizons, Signature Theatre Company, Irish Arts Center and Second Stage

Signature Theatre Company has also developed an accessible Ticket Initiative, allocating patron donations to ensure that all tickets for the first five weeks of a run are available at a subsidized cost. 

You can see great shows with good value tickets at small houses like Ensemble Studio Theatre. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Under 30, 35, or 40? There are a variety of theater memberships geared at attracting younger patrons, and they have steep savings — check out the HipTix program at Roundabout Theatre Company ($30 tickets for patrons 18-40), Lincoln Center’s LincTix ($32 tickets for patrons 21-35), Manhattan Theater Club’s 30 Under 35 program ($30 tickets for patrons under 35), Playwrights Horizons Young Membership program ($20 tickets for patrons under 35 or full-time students), the Flip the Script program at Second Stage ($120 season packages for patrons under 30). Fancy a night at the opera? The Metropolitan Opera offers discounted tickets every Friday for patrons under 40. 

New Yorkers of every age can also enjoy a discount at several Midtown theaters simply by presenting an IDNYC card (free for all NYC residents over 10). 59E59 Theaters and The Ensemble Studio Theater are among the many citywide houses offering promotional codes and subscription discounts. 

And for locals looking for spontaneous ticket offers at an otherworldly discount – there’s Play by Play, a seat-filler service hired by Broadway producers to ensure that shows play to a full house. Sign up for a yearly membership (starting at $99) and enjoy same-day tickets for a $4.50 service fee. This is an excellent option for the frequent theatergoer who wants to see multiple shows weekly for less than it costs to take the subway there and back. 

Even Hamilton has a lottery. This was the celebration of their first lottery when Broadway came back last year. Video: Phil O’Brien

So go forth and see everything that your heart desires — with enough change leftover to grab that aftershow cocktail. 

Join the Conversation

3 Comments

  1. Damn now I’ll never win the lotteries 🙄🤣🤣 Most of the lotteries I’ve entered ( which is a lot lol ) are for the following day performance not same day as mentioned. I prefer that as it gives you time to plan

  2. Yay! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I’m going to Manhattan next month for a short vacation with my husband and I’m looking for some fun stuff to do there. You were really amazing for telling us that lottery-based ticketing ensures equal opportunity for people to watch their favorite play. I’ll keep this tip in mind when I make further reservation.

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