Discount Broadway Theater Clubs

Looking for theater tickets on the cheap? Join the club


Over the past few months, we've been posting a series of articles on ways to obtain inexpensive Broadway tickets. (See Insider Secrets of the TKTS Booth) The response has been really strong, indicating that our readers are not only ardent fans of theater, but are also pretty conscious of how much they're willing to pay for the privilege. 

Beyond online discounts, ticket lotteries, and the TKTS booth, there are even more ways of seeing New York theater without selling a kidney. These include a number of theater clubs that offer members the chance to obtain tickets inexpensively, or even for no charge at all. (Except for those good old "processing fees," of course.) 

Membership to these clubs sometimes involves a nominal annual fee, and, again, there are frequently "transaction costs" above the ticket price. What's more, some of these clubs have specific criteria for those who wish to qualify: some are only open to those under the age of 30, for instance. But if you do qualify, you can often see Broadway shows for less than $30. (At least, before all those "processing fees" kick in. Are you sensing a theme here?) 

Here's a sampling of theater-discount clubs: 

Theater Development Fund (TDF) - TDF is the same organization that runs TKTS, the three off-price ticket booths that sit in Times Square, Brooklyn, and the financial district. The organization also runs a program that allows performing-arts professionals and union members to purchase discounted tickets to theater performances around the city. Lots of theater fans are familiar with TDF, but many might not realize that TDF membership is also available to full-time students, teachers, retirees, civil-service workers, nonprofit staff members, hourly workers, clergy, and members of the armed forces. Annual TDF membership fee is $30, after which tickets are available for purchase for discounts of as much as 70%. 

Broadway nonprofits - Many of the nonprofit theaters operating in New York offer discount programs for younger theatergoers (generally, under 30 or 35). This includes that three nonprofits that produce shows on Broadway: Roundabout Theatre Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, and the Lincoln Center Theater. The Roundabout has HIPTIX, MTC has 30 Under 30, and the LCT has LincTix. As you might expect, these programs only cover the shows that that particular organization is producing. Membership for these three programs is free, and tickets typically run from $20 to $30. Tickets are limited, and the seats may not be that close to the stage, although HIPTIX allows members to pay $75 a year to upgrade their membership to HIPTIX Gold, which offers orchestra seats.  

House-papering services - Sometimes tickets sales for a show are so slow that the producers decide to give away blocks of tickets to fill the house, and hopefully spread good word of mouth for the show. This is called "papering the house." The papering programs are independent organizations, including Play-by-PlayWill-Call Club, and TheaterMania Gold Club. Membership is generally open to anyone, and usually involves an annual fee and processing fees, but the tickets themselves are usually free. As you might imagine, producers don't like to publicize the fact that they're giving things away. Often, when members pick up their tickets, they need to meet club representatives at some location separate from the theater, so that producers can avoid looking desperate.