CITY ROOM

July 10, 2008, 4:16 pm

TKTS Booth Opens in Downtown Brooklyn
By Sewell Chan



Ticket seekers waited in line outside the new TKTS booth at 1 MetroTech Center at Jay Street and Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn. (Photo: G. Paul Burnett/The New York Times)

Downtown Brooklyn is not particularly close to the Great White Way, but now it has become a place to get cheap Broadway and Off Broadway tickets. The Theater Development Fund, the nonprofit organization that runs the TKTS booths in Times Square and Lower Manhattan, on Thursday opened a third location, in a leased ground-level storefront at 1 MetroTech Center in Brooklyn.

“There is demand now,” Victoria Bailey, the executive director of the Theater Development Fund, said in a phone interview,
“but also it’s a real opportunity for us to do what I call old-fashioned audience-development work: not only serving people who already know they want to go to the theater, but also reaching out and building audiences.”

The fund, which was established in 1968 to help revive the theater industry, opened its famous discounted-ticket booth in Times Square in 1973. The booth is currently outside the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square, while a larger project to reconstruct Father Duffy Square and create a new TKTS booth is under way. (The new booth is expected to open in the late summer.)

The Times Square booth was followed by one in 1974 on William Street in Lower Manhattan. The location of that booth has shifted over the years. It moved to the World Trade Center in 1983; after the destruction of the twin towers on 9/11, it moved to Bowling Green and then to the South Street Seaport.

The fund operated a TKTS booth in Brooklyn from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, but the borough was vastly different then, Ms. Bailey said.

“So much has happened in Brooklyn in the last 10 years that it made sense to get back there,” she said. The MetroTech Business Improvement District encouraged the fund to set up the new booth and provided favorable lease terms, Ms. Bailey said.

To be sure, the Brooklyn booth will be a much smaller affair than the Times Square booth, which is in the middle of one of the most heavily trafficked tourist spots on the planet. Ms. Bailey said she would be happy if the Brooklyn both sold 2,000 tickets a week — still a fraction of the 18,000 to 24,000 tickets sold each week in Times Square.

While most of the ticket offerings are still for Broadway and Off Broadway shows, Ms. Bailey said she hoped to make more tickets to Brooklyn events available through TKTS. The new booth will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The fund actually has two ticket programs.

Anyone can go to the TKTS booths to buy same-day tickets, typically 25 percent to 50 percent off the regular charge. (At the Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn locations, you can also get matinee tickets the day before the show.) The fund sells 1.2 million to 1.5 million tickets a year through the books.

Additionally, the fund has 80,000 members. To join, you must be a member of at least one of the following groups: full-time students, teachers, anyone over 62, civil servants, nonprofit employees, performing-arts professionals, the clergy, union members and members of the armed forces.

(Full disclosure: This writer, a union member, is a member of the fund.) About 600,000 tickets a year are sold through the membership programs.

The fund, which has a $13 million annual budget, raises most of its revenue through ticket sales but also receives government grants. In addition to helping theaters fill seats that might otherwise go unsold, it runs arts education programs, works to improve access to theaters for people with disabilities, sponsors training courses for future producers and maintains a 65,000-item costume collection.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony today was attended by public officials and also a few Broadway stars, including Kerry Butler, the Tony-nominated actress starring in the musical “Xanadu” and a native of Bensonhurt, Brooklyn, and the cast of “Forbidden Broadway,” who sang.

Copyright 2008 New York Times Company