Survey Results Revealed! Why do people line up for shows so early?

I’ve been working on Broadway for 2.5 decades now, and a lot of things have changed over those years . . . from the types of lights we use, to how our customers order our tickets . . .to how long people wait in line outside the theater before a show begins!

I don’t remember people getting on the queue as early as they now do.  I’ve seen people in a line that wrapped around the block – an hour before a show was set to begin!

I always want to go up to them and say, “Hey, go get a coffee or a hot dog and come back at like 8:04.  You’ll walk right in, the show won’t start until 8:07.  You’ll be fine.”

But frankly, they’re so serious about standing in line, that I’m a bit scared to talk to them.

Seriously, why do they line up so early now . . . when they didn’t do it years ago?

Curious (and obsessive minds like mine) want to know.

Enter my crackerjack team of interns, who I sent into the streets of Times Square to survey those pre-show wait-ers to ask them my nagging question:  Why are you lining up so early?

In total, we asked over 100 people from all over the world that question, and we got some answers!  And, I’m going to share them with you now!

You ready?  It’s the first ever “Why Are You Waiting In Line?” Survey!


  • 23% arrived 30-40 minutes early
  • 37% arrived 40-50 minutes early
  • 33% arrived 50-60 minutes early
  • 7% arrived 60 – 70 minutes early


  • 1.9% were on a school trip
  • 10.6% were meeting someone
  • 10.6% were handicapped or needed extra time getting to their seat
  • 18.3% like being early or arrived earlier than they planned
  • 22.1% were avid fans of the production and wanted pictures/merch or the opportunity to meet other fans
  • 36.5% arrived early for no specific reason except that they had nothing else to do


  • The average group size of the “Early Arrivers” was 4.
  • The more popular the show (Hamilton, etc.) the more people lining up early and the earlier they lined up.
  • Many families expressed a desire to be there early because of the perceived difficulty of wrangling children in a theater.
  • This survey was done in the winter, which may have affected the results.  We’ll repeat again in a warmer climate!

What’s my takeaway from all this?

Well, people like getting there early.  That’s obvious to anyone walking by a theater on a Wednesday at 1:05 PM before a matinee.  But the 22.1% showing up because they’re superfans makes me think we’re missing out on an opportunity to make them even super-er-er fans.

What kind of content could we provide these Early Arrivers for coming early?

Maybe a pre-show?  A place to sit?  Free coffee?  “Previews” like at a movie theater?

Or . . . here’s a radical idea . . . maybe we should just open up our theaters for them to sit down earlier?

We need to do something.  Security is an issue with those people standing on the streets.  And it’s taking longer to get the audiences in our doors with the intense screening that’s popping up.

I just wonder if there’s a way to get ’em in and turn it into a marketing win.

Do you get to a show you’re seeing early?  Why?  And if you don’t, what would encourage you to do so?  Comment below!

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.