Ticket Touts Magic up Extortionate Prices for the Harry Potter Play

"Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Palace Theater, theater sign" by Counse is licensed under CC BY 2.0

On 26th June last year, Harry Potter fans around the globe were spellbound by creator J.K. Rowling’s confirmation that a play written by her would be opening in London in 2016, continuing the Harry Potter story. It wouldn’t be a new book and film series (yet), but at least Harry would be brought back in theatrical form.

Since the seventh and final publication of the Harry Potter series of novels in 2007 and the release of the final film in the series in 2011, fans have been crying out for more. J.K. Rowling announced in 2007, she couldn’t say she wouldn’t write any more, but said she certainly had no plans of resurrecting the magical universe any time soon. Therefore, this announcement was received with joy and overwhelming excitement by the worldwide army of Potter fanatics.

Previews for the two-part play began earlier this year in June, with the official premiere on 30th July 2016 at the Palace Theatre, London. Co-written by Jack Thorne, John Tiffany and J.K. Rowling, the story is set nineteen years after the events of the final 2007 Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

The play’s rehearsal script was released as a ‘Special Edition’ in both digital and printed formats on 31st July – significant to Potter fans, as is infamously Harry’s birthday. Furthermore, according to CNET, the script has been the most pre-ordered book of 2016. As revisions were made to the script in rehearsal and since the previews, a ‘Definitive Collectors Edition’ will be released in 2017.

Tickets for the sold-out hit show are like gold dust. Consequently, tickets are on sale for more than £8,300 on ticket reselling sites such as Viagogo and Stubhub. This has prompted producers of the show to denounce online ticket touting as a ‘plague’.

Producers Sonia Friedman and Colin Callender have gone on to warn fans who purchase extortionate tickets from secondary ticketing services could be refused entry – with each ticket possessing its own strict non-resale policy. The record smashing hit play’s popularity is so great, the Nimax Threatres official website (the owners of the Palace Theatre), are offering those lucky enough to have tickets the opportunity for a full refund if they cannot attend – hoping to dissuade resellers.

In a statement about the matter, Friedman and Callender have criticised those attempting to make extraordinary profits from dedicated fans’ desperation to see the play – a desperation so great that many fans have travelled specifically from other countries to see the solely London based play.

“The secondary ticket market is an industry-wide plague, and one which we as producers take very seriously…Our priority is to protect all our customers and we are doing all we can to combat this issue…We have already been able to identify, and refuse entry, to a significant number of people who purchased tickets through resale sites and will continue to track down touts and refuse entry to anyone who has knowingly bought a ticket from a tout through the secondary market.”

With official tickets seemingly unavailable for the foreseeable future, many dedicated fans, who failed to purchase tickets last year when they were released or when 250,000 additional tickets were released earlier this year, are being forced to take the risk and pay the inflated prices. Scrolling through the digital calendar for the event on Viagogo, you’ll struggle to find a ticket for less than £400 – and that’s not including the additional 25%+ booking fees charged by Viagogo and others.

One ticket in row S of the stalls has ambitiously been priced at £6,221.38 on Viagogo. After booking and various other fees have been applied, a buyer here could expect to pay more than £8,000 for this singular seat.

It’s the same story on the eBay owned ticketing site, Stubhub. For a row A pair of tickets for April 8th, a buyer can pay the reasonable price of £4,999 for each ticket – a total of £11,947.61 after fees have been applied for the pair.

One expert told the Sunday Mirror that re-sellers are likely to gross over £1million from the Harry Potter production: “£1 million is a conservative figure. Touts have probably harvested 20% of available tickets. If they only sell them at a £20 profit, they’ve made a million.”

Though warned by producers that staff at the theatre have been tasked with identifying resold tickets, this hasn’t been stopping second-hand buyers on these sites in their hundreds purchasing tickets for the latest Harry Potter phenomenon. Fortunately for buyers, they are completely protected by the likes of Viagogo and Stubhub if they are refused entry with a legitimate (albeit second-hand) ticket. The tickets have been specifically marked as ‘not for resale’, and therefore, the touting sellers will be the ones who will be punished by not receiving their commission.

The play is currently set to run until December 2017 – however, if similar popularity continues, it’s difficult to see it not being extended in London and subsequently opened in other countries.

The producers and J.K. Rowling herself have said affordability is a key principle behind the show and therefore, even the most premium tickets can be purchased for £140 for both part one and part two. To offer unlucky fans without tickets a chance, each Friday 40 tickets are released for the following weeks’ performances, for a mere £20. Just like the original full tickets, these deals are snapped up immediately – hopefully by dedicated fans, but potentially by ticket touts on the look out to make even greater profits.

Though of course out to make money, this play is for the dedicated Potter fans around the globe, who have patiently waited for the latest chapter of Harry’s universe. Online ticket touting is a rife issue for popular events across multiple genres not just theatre, and is specifically hard to police. Let’s hope the Palace Theatre manages to cut down the resellers as they’ve promised to do and true fans can affordably go to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sometime in the next decade.


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