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Broadway blockbuster: TKTS booth turns 40

Hundreds of tourists and New Yorkers show up each day at the famed TKTS booth in the heart of Times Square with questions about Broadway shows. Often they're very interesting questions.

Like: "Can I get a ticket to see the 'Superman' musical"? Or, "Are there seats available for 'The Comedy of Edward Foote'"? And, "What about 'Cats'? We want to see 'Cats.' "

To which the answers are: "You probably mean 'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark' and, yes, tickets are available." Or, "Might you be actually referring to 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood' "? And finally, "No, sorry, 'Cats' closed in 2000."

The people patiently doing the answering are part of a carefully assembled group of professionals who wear red jackets or T-shirts with the TKTS logo and the printed slogan "Got questions?" They help visitors navigate the choices as they wait on line for same-day discount Broadway and Off-Broadway tickets at the Times Square TKTS booth, which this week celebrates its 40th birthday.

It is at the booth where Broadway shows can be more affordable for those who balk at prices pushing past $300 a seat for some shows. Thirty percent of the people who line up here are first-time Broadway theatergoers.

"This is the place where theater is staying accessible to people who are on some sort of budget," said Victoria Bailey, executive director of the nonprofit Theatre Development Fund, which runs the booth.

Thousands of tickets will be sold this day as each of the city's theater box offices calculate how many full-price tickets it can sell and then send the rest to the booth. The theater gets all the ticket revenue and the Theatre Development Fund gets a $4 service fee.

Some 58.5 million tickets have been sold from the booth during its 40 years, and -- despite online rivals and the rise of premium ticket pricing -- it remains a draw in middle-age.

The booth was an experiment that stuck. It opened on June 25, 1973, housed in a trailer with four windows.

The current glass-enclosed booth under a red glass staircase opened in 2008 -- part of an $18 million renovation project -- with 12 windows, one of which is dedicated to plays and another that offers full-price tickets to future shows.

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