by Ryan Leeds
Although there is no known statistical evidence to prove it, patience does not rank as a high attribute for New Yorkers. Whether it’s waiting for a restaurant table, in line at the bank, or pacing back and forth on the platform with desperation for the next 1 train, we’re just not very good with it.
Merritt Baer and Brian Fenty understand the value of convenience and have revolutionized the way theater fans gain access to their favorite shows. In early 2013 the two lifelong friends met and had a conversation about the way theater tickets were being purchased. After discovering some research from the Broadway League, the two found that a mere .08 percent of Broadway tickets were sold through mobile devices. By the end of that same year, mobile commerce outpaced desktop and laptop commerce globally and the two decided to launch TodayTix, a mobile app that secures tickets at the best market prices, up to 7 days in advance.
In a recent phone interview, Baer discussed how TodayTix varies from other ticketing outlets and commented on surprising trends of ticket buyers. “We’re really focused on a premium mobile user experience. We offer the best prices in the marketplace and are able to buy out tickets in 30 seconds or less,” Baer said. “Plus, we are able to have them hand delivered right outside the theater 30 minutes prior to show time, which makes theater going easy.”
Baer and Fenty noticed that over the past five years, Broadway sold 81 percent capacity of their seats, leaving an average of 19 percent unsold. “The way to get rid of them has been to make people wait in long lines in Times Square, get up at 5 a.m. for a lottery, or go to five different websites with five different discount codes, so it’s a long tedious process,” Baer lamented. “By using TodayTix, you’ll actually get people more interested in theater.”
Baer dispelled the notion that going to theater has to drain the wallet. “There is an expectation that people expect tickets to cost $100 to $150 or more each, meaning a night out can run up to $1,000 for a family of four once you add dinner.” He added, “As you look on the app, you’ll see that there are tickets that are available from $30, with some even in the $20 range. Just going to a movie can cost that much! So theater really is affordable and accessible and it doesn’t have to happen once a year when your parents are in town.”
In addition to advance ticket buying, TodayTix also has exclusive lotteries with certain shows, offering huge discounts for those who are willing to gamble for a night in the footlights. “At the Public Theater, we have ‘Free First Previews’, so the first performance of each show of the season is entirely free and exclusively available on TodayTix,” Baer explained. “In addition, we have a $10 lottery for shows like Hamilton (recently closed at the Public but opening this summer on Broadway) and Grounded. We recently announced a lottery for Fuerza Bruta, and have an exclusive lottery for Fun Home.”
Since it’s inception, TodayTix now sells 3 percent of the tickets on Broadway and by the end of the year, Baer and Fenty hope to bump that number to 5 percent. New York theater lovers won’t be the only ones to benefit from thrifty theater. Earlier this week, TodayTix announced an expansion to London’s West End, where nearly 30 percent of tickets go unsold each year. “London’s West End is synonymous with theatre and we are ecstatic to be able to offer a service that makes theatre more accessible than ever,” said co-founders Baer and Fenty. Further plans are in the works to roll out the program in other theatrical cities.The pair also plans to extend reach to other theatrical cities in the coming months. For those still transmitting faxes, using pagers, and/or flip phones, you might be left in the cold (and may want to consider crawling out from under your rock), because the only way to take advantage of this convenient service is with a smart phone or other iOS device.
Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributer to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Ry_Runner or on Facebook.