“Dynamic Pricing” is Broadway’s Other Method of Getting More Money Out of Ticketbuyers

Two weeks ago I did a post on the recent “shrinking” Broadway theaters, as theater owners are trying to squeeze as many seats as possible into their already-tight aisles in order to maximize ticket sales.  But it appears that this isn’t the only method the Great White Way is using to make more money: according to the New York Post, ultra-successful shows like the Drama Desk and Tony Award winning The Book of Mormon are utilizing a “dynamic pricing” model that adds over a half-dozen price raises on tickets for a variety of reasons.

Using The Book of Mormon as an example, basic ticket prices immediately shot up in price after the show won nine Tonys, jumping to $155 from $132 for regularly seats (a 17.5% increase) and premium seats “went from a range of $192 to $277 to between $302 and an eye-popping $477.”  Yikes!  The Post offers the following explanations of some of the additional fees causing the price hike:
* Prices fluctuate throughout the theater:Seats in the back of the theater cost $69, good seats run $155 and the best seats are between $302 and $477.

* Prices fluctuate throughout the week:A premium seat goes from $302 during the week to $352 Friday through Sunday.

* Prices fluctuate depending on when you purchase:A $302 ticket becomes $427 if purchased two to four days prior to the performance, and $477 if less than 48 hours before the show.

* Aisle seats cost more:Aisle seats cost $182 instead of $155, and you have to buy both the aisle seat and the one next to it.

* Prices go up during the holidays:A $155 ticket costs $175 around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

* Weird fees at the box office:Each ticket includes a $2 “restoration” fee to pay for work on landmarked theaters; this occurs industry-wide and is included within the total ticket price.

* Weird fees online:If you want to buy tickets from the box office online, you will be redirected to Telecharge, which will hit you with a $7.50 service charge per ticket, and a $2.75 handling charge per order; this is also industry-wide.

Frankly, the economics of supply and demand are firmly at work here, and who can blame them?  The Book of Mormon is sold out until January, and the article cites the smash hit The Producers (which was the first show to price every ticket at over $100) as the show that trailblazed the dynamic pricing model was extremely successful with it.  The article also points out that one of the justifications for jacking up the prices for tickets is that scalpers would typically charge that much anyway, yet setting the base price of tickets high doubtlessly drives the scalper’s prices even higher.  Don’t believe me?  Tickets for The Book of Mormon typically escalate to close to a thousand dollars on StubHub!

Of course, not every show will follow the lead of The Producers and The Book of Mormon — and some that have, like Young Frankenstein, do so without success — so it’s not impossible to see a good show on Broadway for a reasonable price (and perhaps an even better off-Broadway show for an even cheaper price!)  But to continue with the sports analogy I used in my previous article, there’s a reason why tickets to see the New York Yankees are far more expensive than tickets to see the Florida Marlins — better shows that are more popular are going to charge more for the “privilege” to see them.  Like ever-increasing ticket prices at your local multiplex, the only options consumers have is to vote with their wallets.

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