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‘Spider-Man’ Ticket Prices Soar, Plummet in Fragmented Market

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"Spider-Man"
Bono, Julie Taymore, Glen Berger and The Edge are the original creative team for the production of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." Photographer: Joan Marcus/O & M Co. via Bloomberg.

Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Actors aren’t the only ones having their ups and downs at “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.”

At the Ticketmaster site linked to the Broadway musical, regular orchestra seats are $147.50. If you’re shrewd, though, you can pay as little as $89 for the same seat.

If you’re not, you can pay $200 and up.

There are at least a half-dozen prices for comparable seats, depending on how and where you shop.

While such price variations aren’t new, they’re particularly visible at “Spider-Man,” thanks to Ticketmaster’s new “interactive seat map” that displays which seats are available and allows you to choose among them.

In the fragmented, often confusing Broadway ticket market, it’s sometimes hard to tell discounters from resellers when they are displayed side-by-side on the Internet. Savvy consumers get bargains while the uninitiated and last-minute shoppers pay up - - as they do on airlines.

“On the plane, no two passengers pay the same price,” said Dan Geisler, who with his wife, Odeda, manages BroadwayBox.com, one of the largest distributors of theater discount codes. It posts codes on the Internet for discounted seats from the two official Broadway ticket-sale sites, Ticketmaster and Telecharge.

Applying free discount codes from BroadwayBox.com, Playbill.com or TheaterMania.com can reduce the $147.50 orchestra tickets charged for “Spider-Man” weekday performances by the box office and Ticketmaster to $89 this month and $109 next month.

Another option is to buy from the three booths operated by the Theatre Development Fund, which has same-day discounts of as much as 50 percent.

CheapTickets

Type “Broadway tickets” in Google and one of the first sites listed is CheapTickets, a ticket exchange owned by Orbitz Worldwide Inc., the online travel agency.

For the March 3 evening “Spider-Man,” the least-expensive orchestra seat from CheapTickets was $225, including service and delivery fees. That’s more than double the cheapest orchestra ticket from Ticketmaster with a discount code.

For the March 5 evening performance of “The Phantom of the Opera,” CheapTickets offered center orchestra seats near the stage for $307 to $461. The official seller, Telecharge, had them for $210.

Brian Hoyt, an Orbitz spokesman, said many CheapTickets users are travelers booking at the last minute.

“Especially if an event is sold out, this is an alternative option for them to purchase tickets,” he said.

Tickets Available

Unlike concerts and sporting events that can sell out in minutes, Broadway shows usually have tickets to all performances at various prices, said Philip Smith, the chairman of the Shubert Organization, which owns Telecharge and 17 Broadway theaters.

“We do receive complaints from customers who inadvertently bought from a reseller thinking they were purchasing tickets from the original ticketing site,” Smith said.

Reselling can be profitable. Broadway.com adds a service charge of as much as $42 for each regular full-priced orchestra ticket. In the first nine months of 2010, its ticketing operation -- which includes hotel and restaurant packages -- earned a $4.2 million profit on revenue of $79.3 million, according to a disclosure by former parent Hollywood Media Corp. Key Brand Entertainment Inc., a closely held theater producer and tour operator, bought Broadway.com in December.

Discount Codes

BroadwayBox is also profitable, said Dan Geisler. Its discount codes were used to buy 1 million tickets last year, mostly on Broadway. The nine-year-old company also lists marked-up tickets to high-demand shows such as “Jersey Boys.”

To advertise discounts, it sends daily “e-mail blasts” to its 500,000 registered users, charging producers $7,000 to advertise Broadway and as much as $4,550 for off-Broadway.

To contact the writer on this story: Philip Boroff in New York at pboroff@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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