80 Years Before TKTS – The First Discount Ticket Booth In Times Square

Little trip down memory lane to an entry I did referencing Joe LeBlang, the owner of a tobacco shop whose entrepreneurial mind created NYC’s first Times Square discount ticket service in 1894, long before the 1972 opening of the current TKTS booth. (h/t again to Ken Davenport)

At the time shop owners would be given tickets if they agreed to place show posters in their windows. LeBlang collected the tickets his neighbor shop owners weren’t going to use and resold them at a discount and split the profits with the other shop owners. He became so successful, not only did theatre owners come to him with their unsold tickets, but the US post office had a special division dedicated just to his business.

Despite the fact they were providing him with tickets, show producers had a love-hate relationship with LeBlang, though they shared a mutual dislike for ticket brokers (Yes, apparently secondary market resellers have been a problem for over 120 years):

Leblang and the Producing Managers’ Association

Today it’s known as The Broadway League, but in 1905 it was called the Producing Managers’ Association and Leblang’s relationship with them rotated between adoration and contempt. Most Broadway producers were personal friends of Leblang, but loathed his business model, which they charged lessened the value of their product.

They made a number of attempts to run Leblang out of the business, but as Leblang went on to save a number of Broadway shows from closure he became an integral part of the Broadway show landscape.

Leblang’s War on Ticket Brokers

Leblang and The Producing Managers Association made no secret of their dislike of ticket brokers, which they agreed alienated the ticket buying public. Leblang devised a way to limit ticket speculation; his proposal in 1919 wasn’t readily accepted, but later on elements were used by Actors Equity as a barter to begin Sunday performances.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


1 thought on “80 Years Before TKTS – The First Discount Ticket Booth In Times Square”

  1. Thank you for enlightening us with invaluable insights about ticket brokers. Your knowledge and expertise shed light on their operations, practices, and significance in the event industry. We appreciate your contribution in enhancing our understanding of this aspect of the entertainment world.


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