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Exterior of the Princess Theatre at dusk. The theatre is lit up by fairy lights and the glowing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sign. A city circle tram goes by in the foreground
Photograph: Supplied Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

How to get cheap theatre tickets in Melbourne

Theatre-going for penny-pinchers: our tips to getting the best view from the cheap seats

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Written by
Andrew Fuhrmann
&
Nicola Dowse
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Venerable American theatre critic Jonathan Kalb once remarked that the only way to really enjoy theatre was in large doses. The playwright Terrence McNally recommends three nights a week at a minimum. Excellent advice! But what about your precious doubloons? That much theatre doesn't come cheap – not unless you strategise. And we're here to help in that endeavour, with a tips and tricks to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to stage shows. Here's how to see theatre for cheap in Melbourne.

Recommended: Here's the latest in theatre, musical and dance.

Make a group booking
Photograph: Lisa Tomasetti

Make a group booking

Most venues offer discounts group bookings, many for groups as low as eight. That's, like, what? Four couples? Two families? One book club? Easy. Frozen the Musical even has a pretty outrageous group booking deal for groups of just four.

This is especially useful for those big musicals at the top end of town. Ticketek and Ticketmaster have their own group bookings department where you can expect to save between $5 and $20 per ticket depending on the promoter. The advantage of a group discount is you won't get stuck in seat ZZ 99 for the sake of saving a few bucks. Just the opposite: you might end up with a few perks thrown in.

Score a subscription
Photograph: Jeff Busby

Score a subscription

Duh. Of course, taking out a season or part-season subscription will save you money. But don't forget that subscriptions aren't just for the big "arts precinct" companies. You can also purchase season tickets for ambitious independents.

At a place like Red Stitch you can save 15 per cent per ticket by signing up for a full season. You might also consider purchasing subscriptions to smaller companies that don't have a permanent venue. The other benefit of subscriptions is that you usually get first access to tickets, ensuring your spot for popular shows.

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Use your concession
Photograph: Charlie Kinross

Use your concession

Again, duh. You don't need us to tell you that most venues offer some kind of concession rate for "eligible card holders". But wait – there's more! Many companies also have rush tickets – discounted concession tickets available on the morning of the performance. That is, they have discounts on the already discounted concession tickets. Double win!

For example, Red Stitch rush tickets are $15 for students, MEAA members, pensioners or health card holders, and are available at the door 30 minutes before the curtain. MTC also has seat savers at $25 for concession holders (full-time students, pensioners, MEAA), available every Tuesday between 11am and 4pm for performances over the next seven days. You can purchase your seat savers tickets in person at the Southbank Theatre box office or online using the code "SEATSAVERS". 

Buy a youth ticket
Photograph: Pierre Toussaint

Buy a youth ticket

Believe it or not, some companies think the performing arts appeal only to greyheads; in order attract the yoof dollar, many offer discount tickets to patrons under 30, the Australian Ballet has an under 30 rate, and Opera Australia offers cheapers tickets to school groups and students in Year 11 and 12.

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Head to a preview or matinee
Photograph: Matthew Murphy

Head to a preview or matinee

Previews can always be relied on to save you a couple of bucks at least, be it indie theatre or a main stage production.

Keep up with social media
Photograph: Nicole Cleary

Keep up with social media

"Enter your promo code here." But where does one find said code? Usually Facebook, Twitter or the ol' email newsletter. Practically every company, as well as many artists, engage with their audience this way. Amongst the rampant spruiking, social media is also a veritable goldmine for giveaways and special offers. How else would you find out about the inevitable tight-arsed Tuesday specials?

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Use a discount outlet
Photograph: Nicole Cleary

Use a discount outlet

There's a bunch of these online – like Lasttix – but it's curious how much a show's success depends on the image of success. If word gets around that a show is "selling out fast", people are more likely to front up for a ticket; but – as producers will tell you – if a show is advertised as two-for-one, audiences sometimes shy away, following the logic that a show must be pretty ordinary if they have to lure audiences in with discounts.

That's why it pays sometimes to stick your head in at Halftix at 208 Little Collins Street. Although, for the sake of image, a producer might not want their show advertised at a discount online, they might still make tickets available to those who front up in person on the day (though some Halftix shows can be bought online – head to the website to see what the current deals are). Back in the day Halftix only accepted cash, but these days card payments can also be made.

Try your luck with a lottery
Photograph: Matthew Murphy

Try your luck with a lottery

Same-day ticket lotteries are common for blockbuster shows in Broadway and on the West End, and if you've ever queued up to score last-minute theatre tickets in New York or London, you'll know they're super popular. Australia is new to the game, but a bunch of major musicals have run lotteries in recent years. 

Now Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has a digital lottery for its run, with 40 seats available at every performance for $40 (so $80 for both parts). These are known as Friday Forties, and will be released each Friday for the following week's performances.

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Take a look at TodayTix
Photograph: Supplied/Pierre Toussaint

Take a look at TodayTix

TodayTix is quite a big deal in London and New York but launched relatively recently in Melbourne. If you've got theatre-going friends in those cities, you've probably seen them posting links to TodayTix – because they encourage you to do so to enter lotteries and score super cheap tickets.

They're selling tickets to some pretty major shows in Melbourne – including Opera Australia and Australian Ballet show – but don't have quite the same discounts as you might expect in London or New York. But they are running the digital lottery for Harry Potter and the Cursed Childso it's easy to imagine they'll continue to grow their offering.

More thrifty thrills

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