Marking the end of an era, the Tix Bay Area booth — SF's equivalent of the TKTS booth that has long doled out last-minute tickets in New York's Times Square — is taking a final bow at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The Tix Bay Area website will continue to sell discount theater tickets, but as their brick-and-mortar kiosk disappears, it seemed like a good time to explain all the options that Bay Area tourist and theater-lovers alike have for finding below-market tickets for all kinds of shows.
For 27 years, a little booth in Union Square has been offering day-of-show discount deals for San Francisco theater performances. That little booth is called Tix Bay Area, but sadly for theater fans and bargain-hunting tourists, it’s shutting down this weekend. The San Francisco Examiner reports that the booth is closing forever on Saturday, September 28, though its website will continue offering similar online sales.
“With the advent and convenience of online ticket sales, our organization is refocusing on how we can continue to catalyze theatergoing through theater community-wide initiatives,” says Brad Erickson, executive director of Theatre Bay Area, in a release. (Theatre Bay Area in a nonprofit that gets a cut of Bay Area Tix sales.)
So where and how do you find cheap theater tickets in SF now that the little booth is exiting stage right? Here are few a few good actors that remain on set:
Rush Ticket Apps and Websites
The TodayTix site, and its app counterpart for iOS and Android, offers shockingly affordable tickets for most of the big shows and many local indie stages alike. You can literally get a Saturday night Hamilton ticket for $49 for this weekend’s show.
RushTix works a little differently, it’s a multi-tier subscription service that also offers steep discounts on tickets to theater, comedy shows, concerts, films, and cultural events, though its selection of shows is more limited. Subscribers accumulate tokens, which do not expire, and those tokens can be used to purchase tickets often a week or two before a performance.
The Hamilton Lottery
The drill is the same as the last time Hamilton came to town, though now you can also use “Hamilton - The Official App” for iOS or Android to participate. The lottery opens two days before the show, closes at 9 a.m. the day before the show, and winners have five hours to buy their tickets for the next night’s performance once they find out they've won.
Rush Tickets for SHN Shows
Not all SHN shows release rush tickets, but a few do. The best way to keep track of this is via SHN SF’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds. Otherwise, they may be giving most of those last-minute tickets to Tix Bay Area.
Theaters That Offer Age Discounts or Just Generally Offer Affordable Tickets and Package Deals
At the esteemed Berkeley Rep, you can generally find decent seats in the $20-$30 range — and all their ticket are available to theatergoers under the age of 30 for half price, with proof of age required when you pick them up. The Magic Theater at Fort Mason often offers seats starting at $20. Ray of Light Theater often has "Industry Night" performances on Monday — there's one next week for Caroline, or Change — with tickets for $20.
And CalShakes, which is currently wrapping up its summer season in Orinda with a production of Macbeth, offers 20 day-of tickets for $20 when available before 2 p.m. — just call the box office and ask for the "20 for 20" deal. They also offer $20 off any ticket for theatergoers under the age of 30.
At ACT (American Conservatory Theater), there's also an "Under 30" deal available for will-call pickup only, and they offer package deals for preview performances that are as cheap as they come — a four-play package, albeit with balcony seating, starts at $56, or $14 per ticket. Cheaper than a movie!
It’s also possible that any given show at any of the other above theaters will have lower-priced preview tickets before Opening Night, so keep an eye out for preview performances when something you want to see is coming to town.
Image: Union Square Shop