Secrets to Great Seats and Cheap Tickets at Theater Shows

When traveling, I’m a big fan of seeing local theater. Of course, the best place to do this if you’re into musicals like I am is in New York City, or London, but you can find great venues in other cities as well.

Theater can be expensive, and the process of finding tickets daunting, but I have a few tips to make the experience more pleasurable, and, in some cases, cheaper, too.

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Want a great seat? Go solo.

If you want that prime seat in the front row, on the aisle, or in the orchestra section, you need to be one person. At the last minute, two seats together are usually hard to come by. Going to the theater as one person will usually luck you out with a “golden seat.” I recently went to Her Majesty’s Theater in London to see Phantom of the Opera, and bought tickets for a next day evening show, ending up in the front row of the Grand Balcony (the best place to sit), on the aisle…the perfect place to see Phantom, see the chandelier drop, and to see the orchestra. If you go to the theater with more than one person, consider splitting up for the show. After all, during the show you won’t be talking to the other people anyway, so it might not be that much of an inconvenience to split apart, especially if you’ll all get better seats.

Consider Using a Discount Ticket Vendor

In New York City and London, there’s TKTS. In Las Vegas, there’s Tix 4 Tonight. Each of these vendors sell day-off show tickets at a reduced cost. Essentially, the theaters, that morning, release tickets to these trusted re-sellers at a discount, unsure if they’ll be able to sell them at full cost or not (they’d rather get rid of them for something, rather than losing them all). TKTS only sells tickets within a few hours of the show, though you are able to choose your seat. With Tix 4 Tonight, you can buy all day, though are assigned a random seat.

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Go Directly to the Box Office

My preferred way of obtaining tickets is actually to go to the theater directly and their box office. Often you can find day-off deals, or special seating that’s only accessible to them. Several years ago, I went to NYC with a friend to see Avenue Q with a friend. We went to the theater’s box office to find them doing a lottery-raffle for front row seats at $25 a ticket. We entered and won, having the best seats in the house, something we would have never gotten had we purchased our tickets elsewhere. Theaters often have some seats pre-reserved, and won’t give these tickets away to other vendors, thus giving you an advantage in seat selection.

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  1. says

    Since I live in NYC, I tend to go to the rush lottery with friends. For Book of Mormon 3 years ago, I asked all my friends to go with me to the lottery raffle on my birthday to help me win tickets and alas out of 30 of us two friends won the lottery (one of the tickets went to me of course) and that was an amazing experience!
    In addition to what you stated, make sure to be in the mailing list of ticketmaster and telecharge. Whenever a new musical is opening, normally those 2 ticket brokers send out pamphlets with discounts during previews. Normally after the Tony awards all the prices magically go up —- especially if that show won several awards!
    BTW, all four photos in this post are for Tix4Tonight. How come you didn’t take any photos of the iconic TKTS booth? 😉

  2. Patrick says

    On Broadway, if you’re williing to pay full price for premium seats at shows that are not selling out, you can often purchase tickets online within 24 hours or so before after Telecharge reclassifies the unsold premium tickets for the first few rows of the theater as non-premium to improve the odds of selling them. If successful, you could save hundreds of dollars. Also, if you or your companion works for a non-profit or is a government employee or 62 or older, it might be worth your while to join Theatre Development Fund, the organization that sponsors TKTS. Qualified purchasers can get annual memberships for just $25 this Spring ($30 later) and obtain deep discounts, sometimes weeks in advance, for hundreds of shows on and off Broadway. Finally, research the discount codes for shows on, and subscribe to e-mail alerts from and, all of which advertise discounts comparable to those offered at TKTS, but offer you the advantages over the last-minute ticket booths of letting you know the precise seats your purchasing, plan your show beforehand, and skip the hassle of waiting in line.

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