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How to score discount tickets to Broadway shows (rush, lottery, cancellation tickets)

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It was another epic trip to New York City. We visited the city in December, and we watched 11 Broadway shows. That’s right. It’s not a typo. ELEVEN Broadway shows. In 2017 and 2018, we went to NYC three times, and I did write a summary of we scored discount tickets.

How to get discounted Broadway tickets in NYC – we watched 11 shows!

Consider this post as an update because there were new discount strategies that I used for this trip. Here’s a list of the 11 shows we watched during our 10-day visit.

Shows we watched – December 2021

Rush Tickets

These are tickets typically sold on the day of the show. They are heavily discounted, and think of it as the theatre is rushing to sell whatever seats are available. People tend to line up outside the theatre’s box office before it opens, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning. Shown below is the rush line to get tickets to Company on Broadway. I decided not to get tickets on this day.

Rush ticket line to Company on Broadway

For this visit, I bought rush tickets to Waitress and To Kill a Mockingbird. We got great orchestra seats off to the left side (10th row) for $40 each. For To Kill a Mockingbird, a very popular play, I was able to score one rush ticket at the very last row of the theatre for $29. I didn’t mind. I was still able to enjoy the show despite being in the very last row.

Lottery

Prior to COVID, we would join the in-person lottery by showing up during the designated time.  What is it? It’s a raffle drawing, a game of pure luck. There’s a designated time when names will be drawn, typically 20 seats are given out, so if there are a lot of people, then your chances are slim, but you just never know. Tickets are even more discounted for the lottery, and there’s an added thrill when your name gets picked.

The kids won lottery tickets to Wicked – trip to NYC 2017

You must enter the lottery by going to the theatre usually two to two and a half hours before the show. So, if the show is at 2pm, entries are accepted between 11:30-12:00pm, the winners are drawn after 12:00pm. During our last trip NYC trip with the kids. six of us submitted an entry for the Wicked lottery, and three of our names got picked. We were just too lucky, we got front row orchestra seats and paid $30 each (regular $149 or more)! For this recent visit, I did not join any in-person lottery. Most of the purchases I did were via the app, or through the box office.

And to be perfectly honest, while there is a thrill of entering your name and hearing your name called as a winner, in this day and age, it’s all about convenience. Not everyone could make it to the theatre nearly 3 hours before each show to join an in-person lottery. It does give an advantage to those who have the time to show up that early. But when I travel to New York City, I find myself exploring all over the place would rather not spend 3 hours before each show to join an in-person lottery.

Digital Online Lottery

Similar idea as the above lottery, however, there is no need to show up at the theatre. Instead, you will submit your entry online or via an app. Things to remember:

  • There are certain windows of time when entries are accepted (some will allow you to enter for an entire week at a time, some will allow you to enter the day before, others will allow you to enter on the day of the show).
  • You must be 18 years old or older to join.
  • An email notification or text will be sent to you informing you if you’re one of the lucky winners.
  • You are given a window of opportunity to reply if your name gets picked. Some of them require you to purchase within one hour. If you miss that window, you forfeit, and someone else is chosen.

For our recent trip to NYC, we won lottery tickets to Hadestown, Little Shop of Horrors, Tina, Caroline or Change, Mrs. Doubtfire, Six, and Assassins. You can check the production if their lottery is managed by such platforms:

You can also check directly with the production itself. Some of them sponsor or manage their own lottery. Hamilton, for instance, has a separate app. Little Shop of Horrors has a dedicated site for their lottery. Click here.

Mind the APP

Download the TodayTix app, or check out Broadway Direct or Lucky Seat. Setup your accunt including your method of payment. Why? Because once the tickets go on sale, and you’re ready to purchase, it’s so much easier to have had your account and payment info all saved vs. updating your info at the last minute.

Once you’re in the app or at their website, click on Lottery and Rush, this will show you the shows that have a lottery or rush ticket policy. Follow their instructions, know when you will need to submit your entry. If it’s a rush policy, let’s say for example, for Mrs. Doubtfire, the $35 rush tickets were available at 9:00am. This is a very popular show, and if you’re not one of the first ones to enter right at 9:00am, you’re out of luck.

Just go directly to the Box Office

On our first evening in New York City, I felt a bit disorganized. I didn’t get to join any of the lotteries or try for the rush tickets. I found myself just hopping from one theatre to another inquired about tickets. That’s how we ended up with $40 tickets to Jagged Little Pill on. Friday night. We got 4 mezzanine seats.

I did the same thing with Moulin Rouge. I went to the Box Office. There was a SOLD OUT sign. But I asked them anyway if they had any available tickets for the evening show. Sure enough, there was one ticket available – 5th row side orchestra for $99. I purchased it. I was so close to stage. It felt like an immersive experience to be that close to the performers. What a fantastic show.

Moulin Rouge

When you’re notified that you’ve won…what do you do

When you receive an email or text message letting you know that you’ve won, as mentioned above, you must act quickly. I failed to do when I won tickets to Six on Broadway. I was notified at 6pm and did not open my email until later that evening. I only had until 7pm to purchase the tickets.

Don’t do what I did….WIN and failed to claim tickets

 

TKTS

This is a ticket booth that offers discounted prices to shows on and off-Broadway. This is one of the more popular options because one of their ticket booths is located right in the heart of Times Square. The discounts I’ve seen could range from 30% up to 50% off. There are other TKTS locations but due to COVID only location is open. Click here for the location and times. Some of them will only sell you tickets for shows on the same day. Other booths will sell you tickets for the next day.

For my yearly visits to NYC since 2014, I haven’t really resorted much to purchasing tickets via TKTS. It’s my last resort. When I know I’ve exhausted all my efforts in trying for the lottery or trying to score rush tickets…..and if there are no other options, I then check to see what’s available over at TKTS.

TKTS booth – Times Square

 

Cancellation tickets

This was an idea that never crossed my mind. In the many times I’ve traveled to NYC, I’ve never had to try this method. So, what exactly is cancellation line? This is especially applicable to sold-out, extremely popular shows. These are for the shows with very hard-to-get tickets. The box office, at different times during the day, could get phone calls informing them of ticket holders who can’t attend the performance that day. Sometimes the box office hold seats for guests of the cast members, or hold seats for VIPs they expect to watch the show. It is common for these seats to be released anytime during the day, and even minutes before the show starts. The problem here is the uncertainty.

I have a perfect example. The new musical revival, Company, has a rush ticket policy where people show up early avail of any leftover seats. I showed up on Thursday morning during our trip. The box office was due to open at 10am. I got there at 8:45am. I was expecting to see a line. But to my surprise, no one was in line. I checked the show schedule, and there was a show that evening. So, I stayed outside by myself. Someone else showed up around 9am. By 9:15am, there was a lady cleaning the windows of the theatre. She approached me, and told me, “Tonight is opening night, so I’m not sure if there are rush tickets.” Now that made sense why there was no line. Opening night is a big celebration, and I could only imagine that the who’s who of the theatre industry were invited to watch the show that evening. The lady mentioned, “here’s what I’ll do, let me go in and check with the box office if they have seats to sell for tonight.” That was nice of her.

We scored coveted tickets and walked the red carpet during Company’s Opening Night on Broadway

She came back ten minutes later, and the box office folks told her of a few canceled tickets were being sold at regular price (not discounted). But then again, that could all change by the time they open at 10am. I decided to wait. Heck, I had already been in line for over 30 minutes. I had very good chances to score tickets to Company’s opening night. Or, I also had good chances of not scoring anything. So, I waited till 10am.

10 am came, and sure enough, there were only a handful of tickets. I was able to score two side orchestra seats for $99. Sold. I bought it….and the rest was opening night history.

Company Opening Night Playbill – a tribute to Stephen Sondheim

Helpful websites for discount ticket hunt

Playbill  hUNsQgQCd0hxzOHCwuIETQ-PlaybillLogo_Large_Print.png

Broadway for Broke People  how appropriate!!!

Broadway Roulette – you pick the day, they pick the show.

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