west entertainment

“Hamilton” and the new “Harry Potter” play are the hottest theatrical shows of the moment, with “Hamilton” outgrossing everything else on Broadway, and Harry, Hermione and Ron drawing hordes of muggles to London’s West End.


But success has a side effect: Both shows have fallen prey to high-tech scalpers who harvest large quantities of seats and resell them at exorbitant markups. “Hamilton” has been hit particularly hard: When it first opened on Broadway, nearly 80 percent of seats were purchased by automated ticket bots, and for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s final performance, resellers were seeking an average of $10,900 a seat.


Now, as “Hamilton” prepares to open in London this fall and “Harry Potter” plans to open on Broadway next year, the producers of both shows are aggressively trying to contain scalping, a long-festering problem for the entertainment industry that has been exacerbated by technology. The producers of “Hamilton” are trying an unusual approach for theater — paperless ticketing — while the producers of “Harry Potter” are refusing to accept resold tickets.


And in the United States and Britain, policy makers are tackling the issue anew, concerned about the effect of industrialized scalping on consumers and artists.


[…]


Picture this: Instead of receiving a traditional ticket from the box office or a facsimile printed at home, you just get an email confirming your purchase. Then, on the day of the show, you have to bring the same credit card you used for the purchase — as well as the email confirmation and a photo ID — and run the credit card through a scanner to get in. The theory is that requiring the same credit card for purchase and entrance should complicate efforts by would-be resellers.


“Going to the theater is expensive enough as it is with the money that you need to charge to put these big shows on, so it’s absolutely ridiculous for it to be inflated by third parties,” Mr. Mackintosh said.


There are downsides: It makes it harder to purchase tickets as gifts, and there is a risk of congestion or confusion at the theater doors. And the method is not fail-safe. On the day “Hamilton” tickets went on sale in London, with a face value of up to $200, tickets were already being promoted for resale at up to $6,000. Their validity was unknown — the show has vowed to cancel resold tickets — but in theory, a reseller could try to circumvent the system by accompanying customers to the show.


For now, paperless ticketing does not appear to be an option in New York, which restricts such sales. There, “Hamilton” has tried a different approach: reducing the effect of resellers by canceling suspect purchases, and, more recently, by raising prices at the box office to more closely reflect the tickets’ perceived market value. […]

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