What a difference 25 years can make. During its 1974-75 fiscal year, the Theatre Development Fund's newly opened Discount Theatre Booth, called TKTS for short, sold 450,932 tickets to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, returning $2,030,715 to producers. That works out to $4.50 per ticket, meaning an average full-price ticket went for about $9.
TDF spokesman David LeShay said the fund expected to finish the current season with 1.7 million tickets sold, totaling $53.5 million. By those numbers, the average TKTS ticket now costs roughly $31.50.
Some things, however, do not change. Then, as now, the most popular TKTS shows were musicals. The hot sellers in '73-'74 were Raisin and Candide; Off-Broadway, Godspell was a favorite. (The records for the booth's first fiscal year, 1973-1974, were not available.)
Theatre Development Fund opened the first TKTS booth in Duffy Square on June 25, 1973. The fund will celebrate the booth's 25th on Saturday, June 27, 11 AM-1PM, with a party for its patrons. Theatregoers waiting in line will encounter performers, a band playing showtunes, surprise guests, celebrities selling tickets behind the ticket windows, and comedienne Julie Halston interviewing cast members of current shows. There will also be a lottery in which 250 buyers will get their tickets free.
The TKTS booth has seen the sale of more than 40 million same-day, discount theatre tickets. The first booth consisted of a construction trailer, lent by New York City, with a wall cut out and four box-office windows installed to service the public. As crowds began overflowing, four more windows were added. Soon other cities wanted to replicate the TKTS Booth in their own neighborhood. So TDF set up a special "national services" division to help other not-for-profit performing arts service agencies develop their own booth. Using TKTS as a model, TDF helped set up booths first in Boston (BOSTIX), then in Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Denver; Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; San Francisco; Toronto; London; and Sydney.
The New York TKTS Booth sells tickets every day -- even through Hurricane Gloria and the blizzard of 1996. In 1988 as work started on a new facility, TKTS moved temporarily to the south corner of Duffy Square (46th Street), but the selling of tickets never stopped. (There is also a TKTS booth on the mezzanine level of 2 World Trade Center that operates Monday through Saturday.)
Today, 15 sellers and 12 messengers keep the discounted tickets flowing. Every day, after theatres have exhausted all means of selling tickets at their box offices, they contact the booth via phone or computer (TKTS is 90 percent computerized) to tell them if their show has seats. On a busy Saturday, TKTS can sell 10,000 tickets.
-- By Robert Simonson and Sandra Mardenfeld