TKTS, a Broadway institution, celebrates 50 years of business at their Times Square ticket booth

Wednesday, June 28, 2023
TKTS celebrates 50 years of business at Times Square ticket booth
The booth, famous for selling discount tickets to Broadway shows, is popular with both tourists and local fans who can't afford full-price tickets.

TIMES SQUARE, Manhattan (WABC) -- TKTS celebrated a milestone on Wednesday when their booth in Times Square serving Broadway fans for 50 years.

The booth is famous for selling discount tickets to Broadway shows and is popular with both tourists and local fans who can't quite afford to pay full price to see a show.

"It opens Broadway up to everyone with their discounts," Anne Recht said while waiting in line to get a discount ticket.

"It's affordable" said Marion Brain from New Jersey. "It's just a variety of different shows. It's wonderful"

And, it helps producers fill seats in theaters for performances that don't sell out in advance.

John Lindsay was Mayor of NYC, and the price of a discount ticket was just $4.50 when the TKTS booth first opened back in 1973.

Today, the goal remains the same: make Broadway more affordable.

"It's a combination of everything that is joyful and wonderful about seeing theater," said Virginia Bailey, the Executive Director of TDF who operates TKTS. "It sends out a message that it's here for everybody."

Veteran performer S. Epatha Merkerson knows the truth of those words.

"Let me just tell you what it's meant to me," Merkerson said. "The very first show that I saw when I moved to New York in 1978 was 'Ain't Misbehavin,' and I bought the ticket at TKTS. I was broke!"

The city was almost broke back in the 1970s, back when Times Square wasn't exactly the biggest draw for tourists like it is now.

"This area was not at all like this," said Bob Mayers, one of the original architects of the TKTS booth. "You see more people on this line than were in the entire square at that time."

Mayers worked on the project alongside his partner John Schiff told me.

"The thing was supposed to be up for one or two years," Mayers said. "It was a temporary pavilion."

At first it was just a surplus trailer surrounded by scaffolding cleverly used to make the booth seem bigger.

The idea stuck and the booth got a major remodel in 2008 which included the addition of the iconic red bleacher seats above the booth on West 47th Street.

In the course of its existence, 69 million tickets have been sold at the TKTS booth allowing Broadway enthusiasts to see shows they could never have afforded to see otherwise.

"It's a bargain. Yes, it absolutely is," said Tina Pelaez from upstate New York. "And we always get very good seats too."

She estimates that she has seen more than 50 shows this way.


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