The best seats in life are free

Have you ever snagged comps to a show in previews? What was it like seeing a show so early? Tell us here!

As any TDF member can tell you, getting discounted tickets to New York City theatre is a great deal. But getting free tickets to shows? Now that’s priceless, and it’s called papering the house. If a production isn’t selling strongly during its early performances, producers will often distribute free tickets in the hope of boosting audiences and sparking good word of mouth. Papering the house is especially popular during press previews—anything to improve the odds with those pesky critics.

Of course, producers don’t just hand out comps willy-nilly (they want their shows to make money after all). It’s usually done discreetly, with the backers encouraging cast members and others involved with the show to invite their supportive and enthusiastic friends. Nothing kills ticket sales like a show that looks like it’s in trouble, so keeping the comps hush-hush is key.

Unsurprisingly, papering the house is more prevalent in big cities like New York City and Los Angeles, where producers want to make a big splash and try to give the impression of having a hit. So sorry, theatre lovers in Peoria, you’re probably going to have to pay full price for your Phantom tour tickets. The good news? They’re undoubtedly cheaper than the ones on Broadway.

— Raven Snook