Living in the entertainment capital of the world means nothing to Las Vegans who can’t afford show tickets. At the same time, an increasing number of struggling shows no longer can afford to let unsold seats simply go empty — or free to casino high rollers.
Discount kiosks are solving both problems. They sell same-day seats that, producers realize, probably won’t fetch full price by showtime.
Exactly how much do they discount, and for which shows? The R-J recently conducted a random weekday comparison of the two major players. Los Angeles-based Tix4Tonight and All Access Entertainment operate 16 kiosks along the tourist corridor.
The information we gathered was intended only for those who traveled to a kiosk in person on that particular day — a model patterned after New York’s TKTS booths, founded by the Theatre Development Fund in 1973. Show producers demand that kiosk companies maintain this level of inconvenience; otherwise, they fear, few consumers would ever pay full price. It’s why neither Las Vegas discounter maintains a public Web site or phone number, and why Tix4Tonight asked the R-J not to publish the names, or prices, of any of the shows it offers.
For the major shows offered by both companies, Tix4Tonight discounted slightly more. For example, All Access listed $104.70 "Jersey Boys" tickets for 16 percent off ($88); Tix4Tonight for 23 percent off ($80.40). All Access listed $69.90 "Criss Angel Believe" tickets for 17 percent off ($58); Tix4Tonight for 27 percent off ($51.35). Both listed $59.40 tickets for Jon Lovitz at the Excalibur at half off ($29.70).
Prices did not drop as the day progressed, and new listings were not added. Both discounters also charged a per-ticket service fee. (Tix4Tonight’s is $5, All Access’ $5 to $7.)
As the discount booths become more the cart that pulls the horse, their original rules — all tickets the same day and half-price — have morphed into an average of 35 percent off Ticketmaster’s price for the most popular shows. (Half-off was still the norm for less-popular ones.) In addition, the opportunity occasionally arises to purchase tickets a day in advance. (Tix4Tonight had next-day seats for Liza Minnelli at the MGM Grand for $73.75, or 48 percent off.)
Our comparison showed more disparity in show selection, the edge again going to Tix4Tonight. It offered 49 shows to All Access’ 34, with many more top names. Notable Tix4Tonight exclusives included "Blue Man Group," "KA," "The Lion King," "Love," "Mystere," "Peepshow," Penn & Teller, "Phantom — The Las Vegas Spectacular," "Terry Fator & His Cast of Thousands" and "Zumanity." (The rare All Access exclusives included "The Soprano’s Last Supper," Dr. Scott Lewis and "Magic’s a Drag.")
Again, these discounts averaged out to 35 percent. But using Ticketmaster for a full-price comparison — as both companies did — occasionally leads consumers astray. At the same time Ticketmaster charged $104.70 for its lowest "Jersey Boys" seat the same evening, The Venetian’s Web site charged $62.75, lower than either discounter.
And tickets to Terry Fator’s show were available to locals for 30 percent off through the MGM/Mirage Web site, a discount only 3 percent less than Tix4Tonight (before its $5 fee).
If kiosks seem like the ticket for you, your mind must be as open as your calendar. Some shows may not show up on the night you do; others will never show up. ("O" is one, according to Tix4Tonight, and you’re not likely to see Cher this way, either.)
Also, be aware that you’re buying vouchers, not hard tickets. Extra time must be spent waiting at the box office for the exchange.
Tix4Tonight operates kiosks at the Showcase mall, Hawaiian Marketplace, Bill’s Gambling Hall, Casino Royale, Fashion Show mall, Four Queens and Peppermill. All Access has locations at Slots-a-Fun, Palace Station, Aztec Inn, South Point, Fashion Show mall, Tuscany Suites and Tahiti — plus two inside Circus Circus. (Vegas.com also operates a kiosk, called Vegas Tix 4 Less, at the Showcase mall.)
Contact reporter Corey Levitan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0456.