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Discount Tickets Vegas Style
It seemed like a welcome idea at the time. Visitors had long wondered when Las Vegas would get those kiosks for discount show tickets that people are used to looking for in New York's Broadway theater district.
When the first such outlet finally arrived on the Strip, producers were assured that they would remain in control of their own ticket inventory. Sell all the full-priced seats you can, the argument went, but why not fill any remaining seats at half price once it appeared full-price sales had peaked for the day?
And so it went. For a time. What the producers learned they couldn't control was the number of discount outlets. But, isn't that a win-win for the consumer, finding 10 or more of these booths all along the Strip now? Sort of. What happens now is that producers mark 'em up to mark 'em down. A middle-tier show such as Fantasy charges $46 to $68 in order to get half that. The Amazing Johnathan has gone from $54 a few years ago to $69. Now, any budget-minded person is almost forced to seek out the discount outlets for all but a handful of shows that still sell out at full face-value: Cirque du Soleil's O and LOVE, headliners such as Celine Dion with a limited number of performance dates, or touring concert acts.
And discount vendors are bending what once used to be simple, across-the-board pricing—all seats half price, plus a service charge—to experiment with discounts of less than 50% and some shows available a day in advance or by telephone. "Half-price outlets are like crack," noted one veteran of the ticket wars. "You start with a few and get that easy sale, so you start doing more and more."
The same-day outlets still make it deliberately inconvenient with no Internet sales, prodding those who have their hearts set on a title to buy ahead. But other discounts are out there as well, from coupon ads to room-and-show promotions bundled by the hotels. All of these, one producer explained, factor in to get prices from one number—the face value of a full-price ticket—to the real number a producer uses after averaging all the various discounts.
One magician says another who was new to town told him, "I figure if I can get just 100 full-priced sales a day, I'll be fine."
"Do you know how rare that is?" The veteran told him. "You will be lucky to get 30 on a good day."
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