Broadway in January: The Best Time for Show Tickets?

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The best worst time to buy show tickets?

January, it has been said, is the best worst time to buy Broadway show tickets. It has also been said that the first month of every year is the worst best time to buy Broadway show tickets. That might read like gibberish, but it isn’t — not if you know what December and January mean for the Great White Way.

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Look at December first. Traditionally, the period between Christmas and New Years Eve is the biggest week for Broadway box-office receipts. In 2016, for example, the week that led up to New Years had 33 productions on the boards, and together they earned $49.7 million — a single-week record. It wasn’t just the mega-blockbuster Hamilton driving the money train, with over $3 million in sales, it was two more productions raking in more than $3 million (The Lion King and Wicked), four shows earning between two and three million (School of Rock, The Book of Mormon, Aladdin and The Illusionists) and 17 more shows bringing in one to two million (check them out here). Just about every show was sold out.

That’s good, right? For producers, yes. For ticket buyers, no: show tickets were scarce and expensive, with few discounts. That’s why January brings bad news for producers and good news for theatergoers. You see, while the Christmas-to-New Years frame is Broadway boom time, it’s also a longstanding fact that many shows close right after Jan. 1 — because producers know far ahead of time that sales will fall through the floor. The last seven days of each year is their last chance to make a buck.

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So if December is, in one sense, the worst best time to get show tickets, January, in another sense, is the best worst time. If you can handle the cold, if you can handle the snow, if you’re not totally broke from holiday shopping sprees, Broadway show tickets in January are aplenty — at major discounts. So it’s the worst best time of year to buy Broadway because everybody knows show tickets are widely available — and suddenly everyone wants them!

As spectacular as the last week of December 2016 was for Broadway ticket sales, the number of shows closing in January 2017 is jaw-dropping. We’re not talking three or four, or six or eight. At least a dozen productions are coming off marquees. The closings began in December when limited runs — like Oscar-nominee Diane Lane in The Cherry Orchard and Tony-winner Mary-Louise Parker in Heisenberg — ended. Now, even long-running hits are taking final bows, like Something Rotten (two years, closed Jan. 1), The Color Purple (450 performances, closing Jan. 8) and Jersey Boys (11-year run, closing Jan. 15). That’s just the tip of the wintertime iceberg. The Encounter (Jan. 8), Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Jan. 8), Falsettos (Jan. 8), Holiday Inn (Jan. 15), The Humans (Jan. 15) and Oh, Hello (Jan. 22) will all be gone. What’s left to see on Broadway?

Quite a lot, it turns out — so maybe it’s the best worst time, not the worst best time, to hop on line and get show tickets. Hamilton, of course, dominates, with tickets impossible to get. But there are nearly 20 other musicals, many of them new Broadway hits — like top-reviewed Dear Evan Hansen, the eternally funny Book of Mormon, and Josh Groban making his Great White Way debut in the highly interactive Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812 (also called The Great Comet). If plays are your thing, it’s a festival of options, from Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett in The Present to the legendary Nathan Lane in The Front Page.

So, is it the best worst time or the worst best time to go to Broadway? That’s up to you! Here’s what we can all agree on: get your seats at — and give our regards to the Great White Way!

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