Broadway’s soaring ‘Springsteen,’ megahit ticket prices transforming the Great White Way, experts say

Broadway has seen an influx of expensive megahits, such as
Broadway has seen an influx of expensive megahits, such as “Hamilton,” “Springsteen on Broadway” and “Hello, Dolly!,” and their impact is being felt throughout the industry, according to experts. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Drew Angerer

A trip to the Great White Way can give you sticker shock.

Tickets to Bruce Springsteen’s sold-out Broadway debut are going for over $1,700 on StubHub. At the box office, a premium ticket to “Hello, Dolly!” with Bette Midler or “Hamilton” can go for as much as $998 at select performances.

“The bad news of course is that fans of limited means are shut out of these shows unless they plan to re-mortgage their homes,” said Roma Torre, anchor and theater critic on NY1. “There are lotteries for cheaper same-day tickets, but the odds of winning a pair of those seats aren’t much better than a lightning strike outside the theater.”

Twenty years ago, the standard top ticket price on Broadway hovered around $75. Around 2001, when “The Producers” premiered, it rose to about $100, and it has continued to inch higher and higher ever since.

The average ticket price hit a record high of $109.21 in the 2016-17 season.

Even shows that opened years ago have increased their ticket prices. For instance, orchestra/front mezzanine tickets for the performance of “Wicked” this coming Saturday night are selling for $109-$149 on the show’s website. Depending on where and how a ticket is purchased, additional services fees and surcharges may be tacked on to the price.

A full-price orchestra seat looks relatively affordable compared to premium tickets, which provide theatergoers with an opportunity to easily access the very best seats at hit shows in exchange for highly inflated prices.

Merritt Baer, co-founder of TodayTix, an app that sells full-price and discounted theater tickets for shows in New York and other cities, pointed out that while premium ticket prices may still be a relatively new phenomenon for Broadway, those amounts are not unusual for the highest pricing tiers at concerts and sporting events.

“Some of these shows are so phenomenal that people are willing to pay $800 a ticket,” he said. “… When producers put up the very best work that Broadway has to offer, people are willing to pay top dollar for that.”

Baer and some other industry professionals said they don’t believe the skyrocketing ticket prices have made things more difficult for the average theatergoer or for other Broadway productions that are not necessarily grossing over $1 million every week, which is now generally seen as the mark of a hit by the industry.

“Even though the numbers are big, Broadway is as affordable as ever,” said Baer. “There really is a lot for the average or median customer to see on Broadway without breaking the bank.”

Heavily discounted theater tickets can be obtained for numerous Broadway and Off-Broadway shows at the TKTS booth in Times Square or from online offers.

On Sunday, Maria Oliveri and Kathy Elder of New Jersey obtained half-price tickets for “Prince of Broadway” — a revue celebrating the musicals of director-producer Hal Prince — from the TKTS booth in Times Square. They were almost $85 a piece.

“We try to get here at least a half a dozen times a year — or more, but the tickets can be astronomical,” said Oliveri, a seasoned theater-goer who searches for discount deals.

“Back in the day, you could buy the worst seat in Broadway and it was 25 percent of a full-priced ticket,” said Laurence F. Maslon, a theater historian and arts professor at New York University. “Now the worst seat on Broadway is 85 percent of a full-priced ticket.”

With Disney’s animated smash-hit “Frozen” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” both coming to Broadway in the spring, some worry that adaptations of pop culture icons will leave little room for smaller, original productions to flourish.

Sue Frost, producer of the feel-good sleeper hit “Come From Away,” said she is hopeful that will not be the case.

“For every branded title or big show that comes in with corporate support, there is always something that sneaks in and manages to land with an audience. I think ‘Come From Away’ is a great example of that,” Frost said. “If I allowed myself to be daunted, we wouldn’t be here. We believed in our show, we got it here, and it succeeded. I think that is encouraging for other producers who might look around and be daunted.”

Ken Davenport, who has produced shows on Broadway and Off-Broadway, said the attention that megahits bring is positive for the entire theater industry.

“I am a big believer that a rising tide floats all boats, and I think that is what we have witnessed in the post-‘Hamilton’ era,” said Davenport, who is producing the new Broadway revival of the musical “Once On This Island.”

“Whenever a musical appears in newspaper sections other than the arts section, when it appears on the front page, gets CNN attention, when Lin-Manuel Miranda is talking about major political issues, that is all good for Broadway because it brings people’s focus to it and it gets people interested in what we have to offer,” Davenport said.