15 top tips to compare theatre tickets

Saturday 20th February 2016 by Will Langdale

It can be seriously difficult to compare theatre tickets. At TicketTree we’ve been doing it for 13 years, day in, day out, and we can still run into problems when new shows move into old spaces, or the owner of a theatre decides to add or remove a row of seats. We make it our job to try and take the headache out of knowing where’s best to sit in a theatre, but we know some people like to take matters into their own hands, so today we’ve put together 15 tips on how to compare theatre tickets.

1) Get a seating plan

If you’re shopping for seats, you can’t go without!

2) Get an accurate seating plan

While it’s rare for big venues to change drastically, when a show runs for decades you can get some inconsistencies in the seating plans you find on Google. At TicketTree, ours are up to date!

3) Aim for the middle

If price isn’t an object, then aim for the middle. There’s not a show we’ve seen recently where dead centre is a worse view than wide, and it’s sometimes worth sacrificing being close to the front to get the coveted centre ground.

4) Know the price bands

Producers know that theatre ticket quality is a relative thing – that a seat can be a lot more desirable at £25 than £65 even though it’s at the back of the theatre. Find out what the bands are so you can compare tickets more accurately.

5) Decide what you’re happy to spend

There’s nothing worse than stretching your budget to get seats that let you down on the night. If you can’t get what you want for your budget, why not compare theatre tickets on different dates, or with some restrictions.

6) Look at plenty of dates

Producers, particularly in the West End, are getting cannier and cannier, borrowing pricing techniques from their Broadway pals. More and more shows have started upping ticket prices based on how many people have booked. In extreme cases, the ticket you just bought for £150 for a Saturday night was snapped up for £50 by someone going the previous Wednesday!

7) Decide what restrictions you’re happy with

Plenty of theatres mark the front row of their Circles as restricted, but they’re perfectly good tickets if you’re super tall or happy to lean once or twice. Conversely, some theatres have cracking seats with limited legroom that are perfect if you’re not tall. If you don’t mind standing or missing the top of a set it could save you hundreds of pounds – just be sure you’re fine with it before you do it!

8) Keep pen and paper handy

At TicketTree we do the legwork for you, but if you’re out to compare theatre tickets yourself, you need to make a note of the seats, price, and where you’ve seen them. Trust us – write it as you go.

9) Skim a review of the show

One of the toughest things to deal with is when one show leaves and another comes in with a set that completely changes which seats see what. Sometimes when a show begins its run no one’s realised that, say, the back left corner of the Stalls accidentally miss something critical. If the show uses the height of the stage, those restricted view seats at the back might not be such a steal after all.

10) Use the Monkey

We’ve been mates with Theatremonkey for years, and we highly, highly recommend their guide to what’s good and what’s rubbish. They’re theatre veterans with the highest of standards for their views, though don’t forget that red seats aren’t necessarily bad, they just don’t think they’re good value for money when in comparison to others. All hail the Monkey!

11) Try SeatPlan

A late-to-the-game rival to Theatremonkey is SeatPlan, and it’s coming along nicely. It looks a bit slicker but it lacks the depth of analysis. Still, worth a look for a second opinion.

12) Try lots of sites

At TicketTree we’re in touch with every official ticketing agent for shows in London and across the UK. However, if you’re doing it yourself shopping around is important. In recent years it’s become less and less common to have secondary agents holding allocation further to what the theatre directly have, but they still exist. Secondary agents will charge booking fees, but sometimes it’s worth it.

13) Call through for extra seats

Some secondary agents have allocation they don’t put online. Give them a call to compare theatre tickets.

14) Try asking for hospitality packages

This is a divisive one – some theatres hold onto their most expensive seats and put on mandatory extras to make “hospitality packages”, usually to wow businesspeople. If you can afford it, this could put you in the best seats for an otherwise sold-out show.

15) Consider split seats

Ticket agents and box office staff get so used to people asking for pairs that they’ll often say a show is sold out if there’s only lone seats available. You can’t talk once curtain’s up anyway – why not split up and meet again at the interval and enjoy some fantastic seats?

Comparing theatre tickets can be a chore, though at TicketTree we’re very happy to help you do it, but if you follow these tips you should be well on the way to getting some great seats at a great price.

Go more tips? Send ‘em over to enquiries@tickettree.com and we’ll be happy to add and credit them.

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