How To Attend Live Theatre on a Budget (Updated)

Note: This is an update of a post from a few years ago… Many of you who read this blog regularly probably wonder how we can afford to go to so many shows. You have probably been schooled in the theory that “Theatre Is Expensive”. So how do I score good seats. Here are some approaches. Even if you aren’t in LA, many will apply to the cities were you live:

  1. Look for half-price ticket or discount ticket programs. Many cities have them. I particularly recommend Goldstar Events (use this link and I can ear a little credit). On Stage 411 will also send out mailings for discount tickets. Sometimes, you can even score free tickets. PS: A good hint for Goldstar is to star your favorite theatres and shows: This lets you know when new shows are added there, or additional seats for a show.
  2. Know when particular theatres have special programs. Look for membership programs at theatres, such as the Pasadena Playhouse. You pay some up front, but then can get discount tickets. Make sure you are on the mailing lists for theatres, and check tickets when they first go on sale before demand pricing kicks in.
  3. Know how to get the cheapest seats. For Broadway in Hollywood, this means (a) buy early (when the show goes on sale to the public), and (b) buy at the box office. This avoids the Ticketmaster $7/ticket service fee. You can often get $25 or $35 tickets off to the side (seating area D or E) this way. BIH does demand pricing, so later in the run of a popular show, prices go up. [Yes, this means that sometimes the cheapest tickets are season tickets at the Pantages — you buy them early, and can get great prices for the package — and you can split the payment over 10 months!.]
  4. If you can, take advantages of “day of” programs. Many theatres, including the BIH, have day-of rush tickets or student rush tickets. They may have ticket lotteries. TodayTix can also provide discounted day-of theatre tickets. Note that ticket lotteries are going electronic, so sign up.
  5. Subscribe or Join. If you like what a particular theatre is doing, subscribe. This supports the theatre year round, and may introduce you to shows you wouldn’t think of going to. I like to have a mixture of subscription seats and shows I particularly pick. We currently subscribe at  5-Star Theatricals/Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), the Ahmanson TheatreActors Co-op (FB), and have a membership at the Pasadena Playhouse. We will likely return to the The Soraya/Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) a bit post pandemic — their show mix and new pricing structure combined with post pandemic skittishness has us taking a season off. Theatres may also have membership programs: you “join” for a fee, and then can get discounted and early tickets through the season. If you want to see multiple shows in a season, this can be a good deal.
  6. Look for Audience Filling Programs. Theatres do not like to have empty rooms. Actors don’t like to act to an empty room. There are services that help fill theatres. These include SoldOutCrowd and TheatreExtras. I haven’t used these, but I know folks that do. They are worth looking into.
  7. Get on Mailing Lists. If you get your names on the mailing lists of your favorite theatres, you will often get announcements of discounts, previews, and special performances. This includes, by the way, being Facebook friends with your favorite theatres.

If you do things right, going out to the theatre can be no more expensive than going to a movie on a Saturday night (with concessions). Wait until the movie comes out on DVD — trust me, you’ll see the same acting. Go support the live theatre — you’ll never know what you’ll see, and each show will be a little different. Further, help the theatre by writing about what you see, and telling your friends about the show.

Edited to Add – 171110: TodayTix also has a good page on how to get discount tickets in Los Angeles.

Last edited: 10/10/2021.