This article primarily focusses on Palace Theatre, Opera Theatre and the Lowry. I understand there are other theatres in and around Manchester (e.g Royal Exchange, Hope Mill etc…) and I have included information but it isn’t as indepth – but as I am yet to attend these theatres myself, I don’t have the same experience. I am meaning to get to them soon and if you think I am missing a key piece of info from this blog post, comment or message me on Instagram – @mrdealsmanchester
Updated 11/04/2023 – Details of ATG Local Heroes added
Manchester is a city with a rich and vibrant cultural scene, including a thriving theatre industry. We are lucky enough here to have a wide range of productions. However, attending a show can often be an expensive experience, particularly if you like to go quite often. But with a few smart tips and tricks, you can make the most of your money and see all the shows you want, without breaking the bank.
- Sign up to mailing lists
Many theatres, including the Palace Theatre, Opera Theatre and the Lowry, offer discounts and promotions via their mailing lists. Signing up is easy and free, and it can help you stay informed about upcoming shows and ticket deals. You can often get exclusive access to discounted tickets and special offers that are not available to the general public.
The Lowry specifically has an “Our Lowry” scheme open to residents with a Salford postcode, so if that applies to you (or somebody you know), its worth getting that added to your account. Or details are here on how to get on the mailing list.
ATG, who operate the Palace Theatre and Opera Theatre, also often run sales throughout the year – they use this as an opportunity to sell slightly cheaper tickets for those shows that aren’t selling as well as others – if you’re on their mailing list, you will be notified!
You should also sign up for the Royal Exchange and Hope Mill.
- Become a seat filler
As far as I know (but please tell me if I am wrong – its highly likely), there isn’t an easily accessible way to now fill seats for free. In fact, even calling this section seat filling is a bit of a misnomer because the offers below give quite a few days notice usually, sometimes weeks.
However, there are some website that offer very good last minute tickets – and the below also have tickets for other events too, such as concerts, talks and many more.
Showfilmfirst is a great way to get tickets for theatre shows at a discounted price. You can register for free on their website and receive regular email updates about shows that are available at a reduced rate. Not only can you use this to get tickets for theatre shows in Manchester, but you can also use it for cinema tickets and other events. You can use this link to apply. Note that this is a great one even if you aren’t in Manchester as all sorts of events pop up on there in all different places – so no matter where you are, there will be a show close to you soon!
Central Tickets is another one – I find that its very London-centric, but no harm in getting yourself on the list.
- Access rates
Many theatres in Manchester offer access rates for people with disabilitie. These rates can save you a significant amount of money on tickets, and you can usually purchase them in person at the box office or over the phone.
All Access tickets (including personal companion tickets) at the Royal Exchange are £15, and you need to apply here.
In order to get reduced access rates and free personal companion tickets for Hope Mill, contact them in the best way that suits you. More information is here.
For the Lowry specifically, if you have a disability you can find all the information here. Due to a disabillity that I have, I receive a free personal companion ticket for each show (that I specifically have to book). You will be expected to provide evidence of your requirements, but as I understand, The Lowry aren’t looking to catch people out – on the contrary the whole point of the scheme is to increase accessibility. After I sent my form I didn’t hear back for a couple of weeks so I did send a polite chaser, and then I got added to the scheme about an hour later.
For ATG, they accept various proof of eligibility – here is the link. Personally I used my Nimbus card – the fee is £15 for three years, but if you cannot afford this you can apply for an ATG-specific registration which is free, but then you can’t use this Nimbus card for any other purpose except to get ATG access rates and a free companion ticket if required – here’s the link, and you won’t get an actual card if you choose this free route.
In theory, the Nimbus card allows me to access the support I need whilst not being required to disclose further information to the theatre. With ATG and Lowry, my access is now attached to my acocunt so I don’t need to talk to anybody when booking. However, I found when booking in London, I had to ring up each time. The right to privacy is supported, but don’t be surprised if the theatre ask for more detail on your access requirements – they aren’t doing this to catch you out, they are doing this to identify any support they can give you – based on the fact that you have accessibility requirements.
- Other discounts
The Royal Exchange theatre is a fantastic example of good value all around – their standard tickets are a maximum of £45 as I understand, and are as low as £10. They also have a limited number of £7 Under 30s and also performances have at least 20 Pay What You Decide (PWYD) tickets for each performance.
I would say most shows also have cheaper tickets for studentS, young people, senior citizens or sometimes even families.
One example is the ATG Local Heroes scheme – if you follow this link, you can grab tickets for select shows on select dates to get 25% off. You can book up to 4 tickets, but only the Lead Booker needs to be a Local Hero, so this is fantastic. Clearly the shows will be updated quite regualrly on this, so its worth checking quite often.
The full list of eligible professions is here but broadly it applies to teachers, social care workers, prison officers, armed forces and ‘blue light’ professionals and Max Card holders.
The Palace and Opera theatres often have other discounts but as ar as I can tell, there is no collected page for them – so the only way you can find out is clicking through dates and seeing what might appear. I remember I booked an under 30s ticket for Hairspray for just £13 – as I was using theatre tokens (see below) I had to ring up to book and the guy on the phone didn’t even know this rate existed! I feel like these rates are set by the show/production company, rather than the theatre, so there really is no way to predict it or see it without just having a look at lots of dates for yourself. You’re more likely to find this type of discount for mid-week shows, and they aren’t always the same category. If anybody knows a way to actually find out about these rates without digging, please let me know!
This first example is to go and see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at 2pm on Thursday 20 July 2023 – as explained above, this rate isn’t advertised, but I found it by looking for it. Due to the nature of a matinee performance, I would say its quite common to see senior citizen discounts for them.
The next example is a family ticket for Shrek the Musical – this has both a 16-25s rate and a family rate. As you can see, the 16-25s rate is a massive 56% discount on the full price – whereas the family rate saves you a not insignificant 30% , although you do of course have to buy 4 tickets.
These are just a couple of example but it just goes to show its worth spending an extra few minutes going through the dates to see if any deals reveal themselves!
With regards to The Lowry, they do have a mailing list for Under 30s.
Contact Theatre on Oxford Road do The Pinch Ticket Scheme – they are listed along with all other concessions on the website. No proof is needed and there is no catch – they just offer them at the discounted rate for those who are feeling The Pinch, and they are amazing to do so!
- Go off-peak
Going to a theatre show during off-peak hours can save you a lot of money. Matinee performances during weekdays are usually cheaper than evening shows, and you can also save money by attending shows during the week instead of on weekends.
The downside of this is of course that I find it is much more fun to go to the theatre at the weekend!
The Royal Exchange is fantastic at this – the front row is released as set out below. I am not sure, but am finding out, whether each performance has banquette tickets but the implication is that they do.
I have only seen this twice in Manchester at the Palace Theatre- both times for Book of Mormon. The first time it came, people physically had to get themselves to the theatre before the show to enter the Lottery. The second time, it was much better and the lottery seats were releaesed online at a specific time each day.
In both cases, this was used to sell off the front row for £15 per seat – I managed to grab a lottery seat during both runs.
Fingers crossed other shows follow suit – I think the most likely show to do this would be Hamilton. As far as I can tell, row AA currently isn’t for sale on the ATG website (either that or every single front row seat has already been sold for every single performance), which is a big hint that these are being saved for a lottery – but only time will tell!
I use TopCashback to buy tickets for the Palace and Opera theatres via ATG. Whilst every now and again specific shows might attract a higher rate, it tends to be 1%. Whilst this isn’t much, if you are anyway purchasing the tickets, you may as well take the extrea 5 seconds it takes to go via TopCashback!
If you have an American Express card, you can usally also take advantage of their cashback offers for theatre tickets. For example, ATG offers most people 5% cashback on theatre tickets when you pay with your American Express card, and this stack with the TopCashback offer too.
If you don’t have an American Express card, you may have another card that gives you cashback on spending. For example, all Chase customers are currently rewarded 1% for any spending on their debit card.
- Wait and see
Sometimes, theatres offer last-minute deals on tickets for shows that have not sold out. You can wait until the days before the show and check online to see if any tickets are available at a discounted rate.
For example, I grabbed a single ticket in the stalls for just £13 by waiting until a couple of days before the show for School of Rock.
I would say typically it does tend to be the single tickets that are discounted – but the savings that you could get are too good to miss! Not all shows do this though – I have just checked The Bodyguard that opens next week and at this point, single seats are still full price – personally I think they will struggle to shift them, but these types of decisions will be made by the producers of the shows.
- Check your seat
When buying theatre tickets, it’s important to check the seat you’re purchasing. Different seats have different prices, and you can often save money by choosing a seat that is further away from the stage.
I use SeatPlan to do this – this way you can check whether those cheap seats are really worth it or not. This will allow you to make better decisions – either you can go for the cheap seat, or you can save your pennies for a better seat. The picture below is me at Hamilton in London – unfortuantely I require an aisle seat, so whilst the view is great, I missed a lot of background stuff that was happening on the right hand stage.
In my personal experience, I have never had a bad seat in the Stalls for the Lyric Theatre at The Lowry – I haven’t sat in the Circle or Upper Circle though.
For the Opera theatre, I have only sat in the stalls. Note that the further back you go, the more likely you are to be affected by the overhang (because the tier above restricts the view) – this is why its so important to check your view before you book! Personally I don’t like overhang – even if nothing is happening, I want to see the whole stage. I have also found that you don’t necessarily get cheaper tickets – so if you’re quick off the mark and book early, you can usually find seats at the same price without this restricted view.
However, personally, I would avoid the cheap seats at the Palace. You can get seats for as little as £13 sometimes in the Grand Tier, but theres a reason they are that cheap. The view is terrible – if any of the performers have a bald patch, you’ll see more of that for the whole show than any actual action. Equally, the legroom is atrocious – for the one show I sat there, most of us, including myself, were standing up by the end because its so uncomfortable.
Obviously the best way is to give it a go yourself – then you can see if it works for you, but my advice is to save your pennies for a better seat because it really does affect the enjyment of the show. I have just seen that Hamilton is charging £54 for the most of its Grand Tier seats at the Palace, whereas for £87.50 you can get a central seat in the stalls in row G – trust me, when this is the difference, you will get much better value going for the more expensive seat!
- Check ManchesterTheatres.com
This website has a specific offers page where they quite often have exclusive discounts for shows. These come and go all the time and I expect due to the nature of it, that the shows they have on there will typically be those that aren’t selling as well as expected, but its a great chance to see something for much cheaper!
I have seen offers on this website for all city centre theatres – Palace, Opera, Lowry (ok, this isn’t quite the city centre, but its a big hitter), Hope Mill and the Royal Exchange.
- Theatre tokens
Theatre tokens are essentially gift cards that can be used to purchase tickets for shows at participating theatres. This is a great option if you love the theatre and want to save money on future shows. Note that if you want to use theatre tokens to buy tickets from Palace or Opera Theatre, you’ll need to purchase them in person at the box office or ring up ATG on 0333 009 6690.
You cannot currently use Theatre Tokens at the Royal Exchange or Hope Mill.
Every now and again, there are ways to save money on Theatre Tokens, or even get them for free! O2 customers were treated to half-price theatre tokens a couple of years back (I stocked up big time, and still have some left now) – I remember at the start, theyd be available all week but by the end, the tokens were snapped up within minutes.
More recently, the National Lottery ran a promotion giving away thousands of £25 theatre tokens to customers, and you can also earn Theatre Tokens by taking part in the SeatPlan rewards program. It is a bit of a slow burner, but if you are anyway going to the theatre, no harm in taking a photo (check the website for the requirements) and leaving a review – you’re helping fellow theatregoers and will get a reward once you have enough points!
Bonus tip – Don’t buy overpriced food and drink
So whilst this isn’t something that is advertised, in theory you should have no problems taking food and drink into the theatre.
Clearly unless you’re very good at concealing it, any alcohol will be taken off you! I have also previously been told to pour water away, but most of the time I have no issues taking in a thermos mug of tea and bottles of water.
If you don’t want to take the risk (because there is no guarantee), at least consider using an interval pass to go and get those snacks – usually I don’t eat at the theatre, but every now and again I am bit peckish so the Sainsburys opposite the Palace, and the Tesco and Sainsburys near the Opera are perfect to go and stock up for a bit cheaper, and avoid the horrendous queues!
I would also add that whilst in London, I went to 3 theatres and had no problens openly taking in a Pret takeaway cup with me – I wasn’t stopped or challenged. I then also nipped out at the interval to grab myself another one!
In conclusion, there are many ways to save money on theatre tickets in Manchester. From signing up to mailing lists to using cashback offers and access rates, there are many options available to you. By following these tips, you can enjoy all the best shows in Manchester without breaking the bank.
Coming soon – I will round up the best deals to use for pre-theatre dining in Manchester! If you have any suggestions, please let me know by messaging me on Instagram – @mrdealsmanchester