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Average cost of a Broadway ticket passes $100 for the first time

By David Ng
Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

At June 8's Tony Awards ceremony in New York, many of Broadway's biggest stars — and some of Hollywood's, too — were on hand to tout the theater community's achievements from the 2013-14 season, which ended in May.

One milestone that didn't get mentioned on television in front of millions of potential theatergoers: the new high in ticket prices.

The average ticket price for a show on the Great White Way this season passed the $100 mark for the first time.

Though the best seats on Broadway topped $100 years ago, many consumers have been able to find reasonably priced tickets at well below the highest prices listed by the most popular shows.

However, this season, theatergoers in New York forked over an average of $103.88 per ticket, up 5.5 percent from $98.42 last season, according to figures from the Broadway League, a nonprofit industry association and one of the organizers of the Tonys.

For the past five seasons, the average price of a Broadway ticket has climbed 34 percent. The price of a movie ticket nationwide rose 10.8 percent in roughly the same period from 2008 to 2013, according to data from the National Association of Theatre Owners.

“I think there's no question that rising prices on Broadway are problematic,” says Stephen Hendel, a producer whose credits include the current “After Midnight,” which was nominated for new musical, as well as the recent “Fela!” and “American Idiot.”

“At some point, Broadway shows run the risk of pricing tickets beyond the capacity of many potential audiences.”

Industry leaders say the upward pressure on prices is the result of a complex set of factors that includes not only the rising costs associated with producing theater in New York, but also dynamic ticket pricing, which allows producers to charge premium prices for desirable seats and discounts for others.

“I understand a production has responsibilities to investors to pay them back,” says Victoria Bailey, executive director of New York's Theatre Development Fund. But, she adds, talks with box-office workers have convinced her that consumer sticker shock is real: “I didn't hear about that three years ago.”

The most expensive tickets on Broadway usually come attached to blockbuster musicals. “The Book of Mormon” charges as much as $477 for its best seats, while tickets for “Kinky Boots” and “Wicked” top out at $349 and $300, respectively.

Plays aren't immune to the pricing trend, especially when it comes to celebrity casting. The revival of “A Raisin in the Sun,” which ends June 15 and stars Denzel Washington, is commanding a top price of $348. The recent run of “Betrayal,” starring Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, saw seats go for as much as $423.

But only one in five Broadway shows breaks even, and those that do take an average of two years to show a profit, according to the Broadway League. Twenty-five years ago, it took an average of six months for a hit show to recoup its cost.

David Ng is a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times.

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