This Saturday, June 27, there will be a crowd of people at the Times Square Discount Theatre Booth (TKTS, for short). Nothing new there. But on that day, the people may be there as much for the party as for the tickets. On Saturday, the Theatre Development Fund celebrates the booth's 25th anniversary with a host of activities and celebrities. To top it all off, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani has declared June 27 TKTS Day in New York City.
From 11 AM-1 PM, locals and tourists alike waiting in line for tickets will be entertained by some of New York's greatest performers. On hand will be cast members from Broadway's Chicago, High Society, Titanic, Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk, and Forever Tango. Theatregoers will finds themselves members of Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding, smelling Smoke on the Mountain and learning Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know from Stupid Kids. As for refreshments, The Jello Is Always Red.
The fun does not end when the consumers get up to the ticket windows. Selling ducats for those two hours will be some of the stars of the New York stage. Who, specifically? You'll have to go to find out.
Emceeing the entire event is comedienne and sometime stage star Julie Halston. In the background, a live band will play songs from the musicals of the past 25 years. Furthermore, there will be a raffle which will leave 250 lucky people with free tickets.
The TKTS booth has seen the sale of more than 40 million same-day, discount theatre tickets in its 25 years. 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. The 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, theatre box office personnel contact the booth via phone or computer (TKTS is 90 percent computerized) to tell TKTS if their show has seats. On a busy Saturday, TKTS can sell 10,000 tickets.
A quarter of a century can make a big difference. During its 1974-75 fiscal year, the TKTS booth 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 discounted TKTS ticket now costs roughly $31.50.
-- By Robert Simonson and Sandra Mardenfeld