How to Find the Best Seats in a Theater

Seating Tips for Broadway Theaters

View Of Empty Chairs In Auditorium
Fabrizio D'Elia / EyeEm / Getty Images

The best seats in the house when you go to the theater really comes down to personal preference. Some people want to be close enough to see the actors sweat, while others favor a panoramic view. It also depends on the particular theater. Older theaters may have seats that don't offer a full view of the stage. Also, the director of a particular show may or may not have staged the production with theater sight lines in mind.

So, it is worth it to do a little research. You can usually find a seating chart on the website for the theater or show in question. Sites such as BroadwayWorld and Playbill have also collected multiple New York theaters' seating charts if you're going to the theater there. Online theater-fan forums (such as All That Chat and the BroadwayWorld message boards) can give you access to folks who've seen the show and who might give you useful feedback about where to sit. There's also A View From My Seat, an aggregator that allows individual audience members to upload photos of the pre-show curtain to show a more accurate view from a specific seat.

It used to be that you could choose your seats only if you bought your tickets at the box office, but now most ticketing outlets (including Telecharge and Ticketmaster) allow you to select which seats you would like from what's available, based on how much you're willing to pay.

Here's a decidedly subjective guide to the various seating options.


People assume that center orchestra seats are the only good ones, but it depends on how deep the orchestra is and how far back you are. Some Broadway theaters, for example, have relatively shallow orchestra sections (e.g., Walter Kerr, Lyceum), while others have significantly deeper orchestra sections (Richard Rodgers, Lunt-Fontanne, Broadway). So don't assume that orchestra center seats will allow you to leave your opera glasses at home. Also, side orchestra seats aren't necessarily bad. It depends on how far to the side you are, as well as how close to the stage. The closer you are to the stage, the more you want to be over to the center to avoid obstructed view situations. But don't worry if you're in the very last seat on the side of a row. If you're more than six rows back, you shouldn't have much trouble seeing everything.


"Mezzanine" is a somewhat deceptive term. Only a small number of Broadway theaters actually have genuine mezzanines. The word "mezzanine" comes from the Italian word for "middle," which should technically apply to the section between the orchestra and balcony. However, many Broadway houses have an orchestra and mezzanine but no balcony. Most of them, in fact. So, these "mezzanines" are technically balconies. Why the deception? Ticket sales. The word "balcony" has a certain nose-bleed connotation, and ticket buyers are less spooked by the word "mezzanine." Front mezzanine seats are usually as good as orchestra seats, sometimes better, depending on the show. For a show with a visual sweep or intricate choreography, you might be better off in the mezzanine. Be careful of the "rear mezzanine," though, as the term usually applies to only a few rows way, way, way in the back. When ads say that ticket prices "start at $49," it usually applies only to a small handful of seats.


Only a few Broadway theaters actually have balconies per se. (See "mezzanine" discussion above.) The balcony seats tend to be pretty high up, but they might be the best choice for the budget-conscious. However, you might be better off with front balcony seats than with rear mezzanine, especially at older theaters such as the Lyceum, the Belasco, and the Shubert.

Box Seats

You'll often overhear theater patrons exclaim, "Wow, those box seats must be expensive." Not really. The sight lines for these seats tend to be rather poor, and they are often sold with an "obstructed view" warning. So why are these seats even there? Well, when many Broadway theaters were first built, the boxes were for people who wanted to be seen, not for people who wanted to see. In the '20s and '30s, it was not uncommon for theater patrons to arrive fashionably late—quite on purpose—so that audience members could witness them arriving in their fancy apparel. Those days are long gone, and today box seats are often the last seats to sell. But, hey, the boxes usually have actual chairs that you can move around, which is great for people who want a little extra leg room.


Some directors place seats directly on the stage or have a more interactive, unique seating arrangement, giving patrons a more intimate experience with the show. The revivals of A View From the BridgeInherit the Wind, and Equus used this technique, as did the original productions of Spring Awakening and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. These seats are fine if you're looking for a chance to see Daniel Radcliffe or Christopher Plummer up close and personal, but you may also find yourself staring at the back or the sides of their heads. For any show with interactive and/or on-stage seating, be sure to do your research to find out how the view from those seats actually is.

Rush Seats and Standing Room

Many shows offer a limited number of steeply discounted tickets on the day of the performance. Some offer "rush seats," which are typically unsold seats day-of performance or a limited number of less-popular seats set aside for this specific purpose (some shows have switched over to lotteries rather than in-person rush lines, but the seating situation remains the same). The other option is standing room, which is exactly what it sounds like: a limited number of tickets sold that don't correspond to a seat, but instead allow audience members to stand in a designated area in the back of the theater. Standing room is usually only sold once a specific performance is sold out, but it's often a budget-conscious option with better sight lines than one might expect.