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What distinguishes Broadway vs. Off Broadway (and Off-Off Broadway) theaters is simply the number of seats in the theater. Theaters with a house larger than 499 seats are considered Broadway Theaters. (Only Broadway theaters have been deemed eligible for the Tony Awards by the American Theater Wing and the Broadway League). Theaters with houses between 99 and 499 seats are Off-Broadway. Any theater less than 99 seats are considered Off-Off-Broadway.
It doesn’t necessarily have to do with the quality of the show, so never rule out seeing an Off, or Off-Off-Broadway show. To find out what is playing, check out Theatermania’s website or Time Out’s website.
Amazingly, only four of the 40 Broadway Show theaters are actually on Broadway! All the other Broadway theaters are in the theater district in the blocks east and west of Broadway around Times Square. To learn more about these side streets and their historic theaters, consider taking our guided tour of Broadway and the Theater District or our self-guided version. Meanwhile, Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway theaters are scattered around Manhattan and NYC, especially in Greenwich Village.
TIP: Be sure to check out our post on getting discount Broadway theater tickets.
Broadway theaters are, more or less, the theaters in New York that must abide by Actors’ Equity’s Broadway production contracts. Other Unions of theater workers (stagehands, musicians, playwrights etc.) also have contracts linked to the size and type of the theater. Ticket prices are higher on Broadway, and the costs of creating and running a show are also higher. For 2010-11 musicals on Broadway had an average initial cost of $9.6 million, and for Off-Broadway musicals $1 million (plays are considerably less expensive). The weekly running costs of a Broadway musical are typically $250,000 to $650,000, and Off-Broadway musicals are typically in the $50,000 to $100,000 range, For an actor on Broadway, the current basic minimum weekly salary is $1861, and Off -Broadway between $566 and $1008, depending on the size of the house.