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Ignore me, Mr. Usher, my real seat’s there

So basically, it has reached the point where not even the people selling the show tickets expect you to pay full price.

Every year, Anthony Curtis of the Las Vegas Advisor does what no one else is brave enough to try. He tallies up every show in town to find the average ticket price. Not easy for all kinds of reasons, as you shall see.

But he does arrive at a hard number, and this year that number is $80.22. It’s the average of 93 shows, not counting Colosseum at Ceasars Palace headliners other than Celine Dion, or limited runs such as Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. If he did, the average surely would be higher and Donny and Marie Osmond probably would not have the highest average of nearly $182.

Those big names are more like concert attractions, and here definitions can blur. Is the Def Leppard sit-down at the Hard Rock Hotel a “concert” that’s here for a bunch of nights or a Celine-style “residency”?

Regardless, most concerts don’t play discount games. Maybe a Groupon offer here or a room-and-ticket combo there. But your best shot at a deal is still to buy an entry-level ticket and try to sneak past the usher.

But the Vegas-based shows? Sheesh. The real news is not the highest average in the 22 years Curtis has crunched the numbers, or the $4.78 increase over last year’s average. It’s that face value has become a haggle point for the various discounts that get you closer to the real, and hidden, average.

One local producer estimates that for most of them, 75 to 80 percent of ticket sales have “some kind of discount in there.” In the past, I have picked on ubiquitous discounter Tix4Tonight for its sheer availability, some of its nine outlets as convenient as a show’s official box office.

But even the “real” box offices will now upgrade your seating, combo your ticket with a buffet or at least give you 10 bucks off; all of them offer some form of discount. And hoofing it to a discount booth on the Strip? So retro, dude. Travelzoo.com last week would sell you Recycled Percussion for $18 (rack rate is $69.29), or Gordie Brown for $27 … including a buffet!

Brown is one of the few entertainers not renting his showroom to independently produce his show. The Golden Nugget gives the impressionist an old-fashioned guarantee, and therefore has the ability to set its own old-school, loss-leader discounts to drive casino traffic.

For nearly every other show beyond the A list, “we have to get more creative because now Cirque is discounting their tickets,” says one producer.

Cirque raised its ticket for “Ka” — not its top-volume show — by $17. Wonder if Cirque isn’t playing that “mark ’em up to mark ’em down” game, too?

Curtis did find at least a few glimmers of hope for reeling this trend in. Thanks to tiered pricing, the lowest “honest” ticket for many A-list shows comes in lower, or right around, that $80 average that factors inflated prices. You can get in the door at “Jersey Boys” for about $64, Celine Dion for about $70, Blue Man Group for about $75.

Again, those are for the worst seats. The rest, like a concert, is between you and the ushers.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at
mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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