Your tickets to the PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh series for next season took a step up in price, but a look at the big picture shows you are probably getting a bargain on the best seats when compared to similar-sized cities.
The prices of tickets rose from $162-$568 in 2016-17 to $175-$630 (plus $10 for taxes and fees) for next season, when a season subscription puts you in line for the first Pittsburgh stop of the “Hamilton” tour in 2018-19.
Compare those numbers to what theatergoers are paying in Cleveland, which in 2017-18 has “Hamilton” as a season extra and the top ticket is $680. Theatergoers in Cleveland, however, have a wider range of day-of-the-week options — as low as $110 for the least desirable views. That is no longer an option in Pittsburgh, where subscription ticketing for the same seat costs the same any day of the week.
“We have seen a trend in Pittsburgh where the demand for season tickets is spreading more evenly over the days of the week,” explained Marc Fleming, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust vice president of marketing and communications. “From a customer-service standpoint, it makes more sense to simplify pricing, which also allows for easier exchanging between performances within the run of a show.”
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“Demand” — based on the calculation of what consumers are willing to pay — is the key word there and the No. 1 reason for the ticket costs. Mr. Fleming said subscribers so far this season have saved 25 percent vs. the cost of purchasing single tickets.
“We make every effort to ensure our subscribers have the best price available,” he said of Pittsburgh’s favorable comparison to other cities’ Broadway Series subscriptions.
According to broadway.org/tours, there are currently 28 tours of musicals making stops around the country. Most season subscriptions are for seven of them, with a varying number of season specials — usually long-running top-sellers (for example, “Wicked,” “Jersey Boys,” “Book of Mormon,” “The Lion King”) and holiday shows (“Elf,” “A Christmas Story”).
Some of those shows have enormous expenses — “The Lion King” travels with truckloads of costumes, set pieces and props, or casts such as “Matilda” and “The King and I” that have casts with several children who travel with chaperones and tutors.
“The expenses for a tour may figure into whether a tour goes out on the road or not,” said Mr. Fleming. “From a ticket pricing standpoint, those decisions are made based upon demand.”
Even the practice of premium or VIP pricing for some of those season specials comes down to what we are willing to pay, he said. Another reason for the advent of premium pricing has been to combat ticket brokers who use software bots, allowing them to hoard the best individual tickets available and resell them at a large profit.
Broadway and regional theaters with in-demand shows may hold back “premium seats” — the best in the house — and sell them at higher prices. “Wicked,” “The Book of Mormon” and “The Lion King” are examples of shows that allow for premium pricing. Another practice that has trickled down from Broadway to the most in-demand touring is to hold back tickets for lotteries, charging lower prices for top seats.
Broadway Series around the country are already benefiting from the “Hamilton” bump — the first tour of the blockbuster musical — although it is not the first example of a much-anticipated show to be used as bait for subscriber preference. Subscribers have long had the advantage of first crack at “season specials.” For example, individual tickets for “Wicked,” due here Jan. 24-Feb. 11, 2018, don’t go on sale until Nov. 17 but are already available to subscribers.
Those big-budget high-quality live musicals offer a lot of bang for your buck. It is a lot of bucks, to be sure, and it’s up to theater owners to decide what the consumer threshold is for spending.
Sharon Eberson: [email protected] or 412-263-1960. Twitter: @SEberson_pg.