This just in . . . theater tickets are expensive.

Ok, you knew that already.

But here’s something you may not have known . . . They’ve always been expensive.

Hal Prince once gave a speech where he confirmed my theory that people have been complaining about theater prices since The Black Crook opened.

Yet one of the most common complaints I still hear at meetings regarding the problems of Broadway and the theater in general is that tickets are too expensive and if we could only fix that, the theater would be restored to its past glory!

Sorry, not gonna happen.

As Hal insinuated, it’s time we acknowledge that theater tickets are expensive and get over it, because it’s not gonna change.

Theater tickets are a high priced commodity.  They are a luxury good.  But are they too expensive?

Let’s compare Broadway theater tickets to other live entertainment options:

  • A recent scan of the web found me a pair of Bon Jovi tickets for a top price of $129.50 in Wisconsin (something tells me people in Milwaukee may earn less than people in New York City so $129.50 might feel like a heck of a lot more to them).
  • The Yankees offer a bunch of different ticket options, including SEVEN price levels at $100 or higher (up to $400).
  • Top price for Ka in Las Vegas?  $169.50.
  • Disney World?  $71.

Our ticket prices are not out of line.  They are even cheap by some comparisons (something tells me those $400 Yankees tickets will go faster than premiums to A Catered Affair).  And most Producers (as they should) have a small allocation of much lower priced seats to offer those who can’t afford the high priced options (lotteries, rush, etc.)

People will pay the $125, $250 or sometimes even $500 for the
right ticket to the right show, which demonstrates that people are not
price resistant.

They are value resistant.

We need to stop worrying about how to decrease prices and start worrying about how to increase value.

Your customers will pay top dollar plus for an experience that they believe is worth it.  Your job is to make the value of your ticket seem even higher than the price your customer is paying so it seems like they got a bargain.

Oh and to all the people that say we need to cut the price of the ticket to
save the American theater, I point to all of the shows that have
discounted tickets down to the $20s and $30s to “save their show” only
to still see them close (there is no value in a crappy show).

And, vice-versa, every time I’ve raised prices on a Broadway or Off-Broadway show, attendance never drops.

The day of the $1,000 theater ticket will be here some day, and as depressing as that sounds, don’t worry.  It’ll still be less than what a lot of people pay for tickets to the Super Bowl or The Kentucky Derby.

  • Mary says:

    I agree with the ending of your blog. Okay, I agree with the whole thing really.
    I can’t judge theatre tickets when I have spent far more money on other things (Justin Timberlake’s VIP Lounge experience anyone?) but I will say that if better experiences were offered on (and off) Broadway, I’d drop the cash (or credit card) in a snap. If I want it, I’ll pay. There’s never such a thing as too expensive.
    And let’s face it; one of these days, I’m dropping everything for a Superbowl experience… Unless Broadway offers me somethng better. Ha!

  • I think a key is to remember that for most shows, you CAN get the cheaper tickets. Sadly, many people are out-priced when it comes to top tickets, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get a seat somewhere. Plus, on Broadway, the discount ticket is pretty standard. Even if the top ticket is $125, that doesn’t mean you can’t find it for $60-90 with a little hunting.
    For the ticket prices to drop, the production values would need to follow. Do we want to return to canvas sets or give up the magic of sets moving on and off without stage hands in view (that was truly a special effect to me when I saw my first show at 18).
    That said, I do know people who don’t see touring Broadway shows because they simply don’t have it in their budget. But then, neither do I. I make room.

  • Kim Fredenburg says:

    I do get what you are saying. However, it is a problem. I just looked into taking my family to see the SF A.C.T. A Christmas Carol, and it would cost us $600+ at mid level tickets to go see the play. We are extremely into the arts. We recently paid $450 for all of us to go to the SF Symphony. Which might I add is starting to see a dwindling crowd. But I can not pay $600+ to go to a play on a regular basis and put my kids through college, no matter what value/quality I can see. With all of the media options today, the theatre needs to consider, that if I, who am willing to spend $450 on symphony tickets, thinks that $600+ is too much, consider what the vast majority of the struggling American population could be thinking. If we as parents don’t inspire our children by attending the theatre because of cost, eventually that decision could (just a possibility) cause a diminishing excitement (and therefore attendance) in regards to the theatre for future generations. Then again, as you stated, it is a luxury. To which I agree with completely. Maybe I’m just living outside of my means. But that would be strange considering my husband is an extremely successful engineer in Silicon Valley. Who are these tickets for then? Hmmm, food for thought.

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