The price isn’t right

How much does it cost to see a Las Vegas show? I did the calculation last week, marking the 20th year in a row that the Las Vegas Advisor has determined the city’s average show-ticket price. Back in 1992, the average was $27.05. Since then it’s been a continual (prices retreated slightly in three of those 20 years) march upward to a lofty 2011 average of $76.46. That’s brutal.

Or is it? Everyone understands that prices go up, so part of the difference can be attributed to normal inflation. But a nearly 300 percent increase means that other factors are also at work. In the case of show prices, there are two of them. The first is the magnitude of productions on the high end. Twenty years ago, we didn’t have Celine, Blue Man Group and seven Cirque shows. The high-priced spectaculars that came in with the “new” Las Vegas have skewed the average upward. So for those of us looking for a show bargain, simply ignoring the highest-priced shows brings our cost way down (and bargains still exist—this year’s least expensive ticket was $17.45 for the Afternoon Comedy Magic Show at the Four Queens).

The second factor—and this is the big one—is that almost every show these days slaps on an artificially high retail price so it can be discounted. What this means is that the official price is rarely what you have to pay.

Where do you find the discounts? Everywhere. One strong source is the half-price ticket outlets on the Strip; you have to visit them the day of the show, but you’ll get about 40 percent off per ticket (after fees) on about 70 percent of the city’s inventory. In any given week, you’ll find a dozen or so discount coupons in the freebie mags you can pick up at any casino bell desk. A good online source is, offering about 40 shows at or near 50 percent off. You can even get discounts on those high-end shows if you know where to look. We put up codes all the time at that can save anywhere from $10 to $50 per ticket on the blockbusters.

Las Vegas casinos boast more than 90 ticketed shows, and for about 75 of them, paying retail is for squares.

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