TodayTix Brings Its Last-Minute Ticketing Service To London’s West End

We’ve written about how TodayTix has been working to help the theater industry adapt to the world of on-demand, mobile-centric commerce — today it’s crossing the Atlantic, to London’s West End.

The New York City-based startup launched its mobile app at the end of 2013 and says it’s now selling an average of one ticket every minute to its 425,000 users.

In both New York and London, TodayTix offers tickets for performances that will take place in the next seven days. The tickets may be discounted, and they’re sold until one hour before the show. (If you want to compare it to another service, you can think of it as HotelTonight for theater tickets.)

In some cases TodayTix will offer special lotteries with tickets that are even cheaper or completely free. For example, there were more than 250,000 entries to win $10 tickets to the Public Theater’s production of Hamilton. (I actually entered a few times. I suppose those numbers explain why I never actually won.)

The company says it’s already working more than 40 West End shows. It’s also hired a small team in London. CEO Merritt Baer said it’s important for the app to embrace London, rather feeling like a New York app that includes London as an afterthought. That attitude, Baer said, is reflected in little touches like a new loading screen that shows Shaftsbury Avenue rather than Times Square.

And while it’s no surprise that TodayTix chose New York and London as its first two markets, Chairman Brian Fenty said there’s plenty of opportunity for continued geographic expansion. TodayTix estimates that there’s a $50 billion theater industry worldwide, with Broadway representing only $1.27 billion. They plan to launch to other U.S. markets, including Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. before the end of the year.

By the way, co-founders Baer and Fenty come from the theater world. While they’ve worked in finance and other industries, both of them have produced Broadway shows, and Baer actually won a Tony Award as one of the producers of the 2012 production of Death of a Salesman.

Not surprisingly, TodayTix has put the pair’s producing careers on hold, but Baer suggested that one of his aims here is to “really grow the pie and speak to a new audience that we can produce shows for,10 years from now or 20 years from now or whenever.”

After all, he noted that 20 percent of Broadway tickets go unsold (the number is 30 percent in London), yet the industry tries to sell those last-minute tickets by “making people wait an hour-and-a-half in Times Square.” In contrast, Baer said one of his mantras is “never wait in line” — and to provide that, TodayTix even sends its own concierge to some New York venues, so you can skip the will call line when picking up your tickets. (I got a chance to experience that myself when TodayTix invited some tech reporters to a preview performance of Grounded at the Public.)

There are signs this approach is indeed reaching a new audience. Fenty said that in at least one case, a theater found that there was literally zero overlap between TodayTix buyers and their database of existing customers. Another positive sign: While the average Broadway theatergoer is 44 years old, the average TodayTix user is 32.