You can save big on Broadway shows and have fun doing it. Many shows, including the hits Hamilton, Aladdin and The Book of Mormon, offer a small number of great seats for just $10 to $40, a massive markdown from the $100 to $300 ordinarily charged. However, to snag these savings, you must enter a lottery held in the hours prior to showtime. Details about specific lotteries can be found at Playbill.com (enter “lottery” into the search box) TheBroadwayGuide.com (select shows of interest from the menu to see which offer lotteries)…and on my website, BroadwayForBrokePeople.com (lotteries are listed under “Cheapest Tickets”).
Some theaters in other cities have lotteries, too. Visit their websites to check, or enter the words “theater”…“lottery” …and the city name into a search engine.
Twenty or so seats might be offered through a Broadway show’s lottery for each performance, though this varies. Each winner generally can claim no more than two seats, so entering makes more sense for couples and singles than for larger groups. The quality of seats provided varies—some may be in the first two rows, while others may have obstructed views. Several Off-Broadway shows have similar programs.
Lotteries fall into two categories…
In-person lotteries must be entered at the box office. In most cases, they open for entries two-and-a-half hours before showtime and close 30 minutes later, with winners drawn soon after. Winners must be present when their names are drawn. The odds of winning can be bad for the newest and biggest hits but reasonably good for some shows that attract just a few dozen entries, particularly with midweek shows…when the weather is cold or rainy…and with older or less popular shows. Occasionally turnout is so low that everyone who enters wins.
If you hope to attend the play as a couple, both of you can enter the lottery. (It’s not a problem if you both win—lottery winners are not required to buy tickets.) If your plan is to attend alone, try to find someone else in the crowd waiting for the drawing who also is alone and offer to team up—if either of you wins, buy two tickets and split the cost.
Warning: Many in-person lotteries, including those for Aladdin, Hamilton and Wicked, require that winners pay for their tickets in cash, so make sure you have enough money.
Online lotteries are entered through websites or smartphone apps on the day of the show or, in some cases, as early as curtain time of the previous performance. But many more people tend to enter online lotteries than in-person lotteries, reducing your odds of winning. Winners receive a text or e-mail notification. Read this message carefully—you might be required to pay for and/or pick up your tickets well before showtime.