As NYU students, we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to purchase discounted tickets for Broadway shows. However, for those outside the NYU community, the costs are becoming too high to see the shows. If Broadway is not going to lower its ticket prices, it should at least produce filmed version for a fair price.
Back in 2016, “Hamilton” raised its ticket prices to $849 for the best seats in an attempt to actually lower some ticket costs — this created a lottery where 46 seats would be available in the first two rows for only $10. The lottery may work for those who live in New York City, but tourists cannot arrange a whole day to see a performance without guaranteed tickets. The mezzanine and balcony seats usually run from $139 to $177, but for those of us who aren’t lucky enough to get the lottery seats, prices can still be far too expensive. For the average family of four, that’s a minimum of $556 for seats that might not have clear visibility, and that’s excluding transportation costs. Even a ticket for a less expensive musical such as “Aladdin” sells for between $57.50 and $227.50 per ticket.
In fact, many out of towners, who would otherwise see Broadway plays, are trapped not only by Broadway’s costs but by the city’s costs. Even a short flight from, say, North Carolina costs $191, and then a night at a hotel might be around $100, and between food, cab fare and the $849 ticket, a single person has just spent well over $1000 just to see a show. Many people cannot spare that amount of money. Though off-Broadway tours of popular shows bring a taste of the experience to people in different cities, the costs of visiting New York prevent many people from experiencing the real deal.
This is why Broadway should professionally film its musicals. Broadway has often complained about the widespread practice of filming bootleg musicals, a practice it has attempted to stifle by not allowing cameras or phones to be on while the musical is playing. As Victoria Mione, a writer for the blog, Affinity, wrote in her article, “Shaming fans for watching bootlegs is unconsciously classist. Why should someone be prevented from watching a show just because they can’t afford it?” Nonetheless, Broadway could probably end the trend of bootlegs for good if it filmed high-quality versions of its plays and sold them are a fair price.
When Lin Manuel-Miranda confronted a fan on Tumblr who wanted a bootleg of “Hamilton,” some suggested that he wasn’t being sensitive to how difficult it was to see the musical. He promised a recording would be released that summer (2015) and said that it was a shame the musical only existed in one place, but that wasn’t going to change any time soon. By contrast, “Cats” successfully created a video of the musical with the original Broadway actor playing the lead role. Some might argue this dilutes the art form, but the majesty of Broadway will definitely come across even in a movie format, although it’s not the same as seeing a live-action version. Many people will watch grainy, shaky videos just to get a taste of these live-action version. Another concern might be that it would hurt ticket sales, but if anything, it would probably encourage people to go see it more. Bootlegs haven’t hurt the sales, and professional video might even increase them.
The arts should belong to all of us, and no one should be prevented from experiencing theater due to skyrocketing costs. Broadway is incredibly relevant, but if it wants to remain so in the bootleg era, it should make accessibility a priority.
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Email Beth Sattur at [email protected]