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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Taking the Hassle Out of a Night at the Theater

It's neither ticket prices nor the spring lineup that keeps many from spending a night at the theater. Not only are tickets comparatively inexpensive, but few cities can rival the vast array of cultural events Moscow puts forth each week.

What holds many back is the difficulty they perceive in buying tickets, especially good tickets. But there are ways to minimize box-office hassles and find the right seats for the right night.

A little forward planning is essential. Some theaters sell tickets all at once and well in advance. Pick up a copy of Teatralnaya Afisha (25 rubles at official ticket offices) or check out the site for comprehensive listings of cultural events.

Look ahead as far as a month. The Lenkom Theater sells a week's worth of tickets each Saturday starting at noon for shows that are scheduled 20 days ahead. For especially popular shows, the line can start forming as early as 5 a.m.

A similar system works at the Theater Yunogo Zritelya, home to Kama Ginkas' hugely popular and highly respected productions. You'll need to call the theater to find out the day tickets go on sale for the coming month.

Availability depends on a show's popularity, of course, but if the unpredictable and arcane world of the box office is too daunting, there are plenty of other alternatives.

Thirty percent of ticket sales in the capital, or 3 million tickets annually, are sold at face value through the many ticket kiosks dotted around the city center. Tickets to popular shows are tacked up in the windows, with the current 15 days' listings for 59 of the city's venues posted in the booth's right window.

"There are 80 official ticket offices in the city, 35 of which are located in the metro," said Lev Belov, general director of the Moscow ticket office directorate, which is affiliated with the Culture Ministry.

Selling tickets for any price other than the one printed on the ticket is prohibited by a City Hall resolution, Belov added.

Theaters send as many tickets to the directorate as they choose. The directorate then distributes the tickets to booths one month before a show. Proceeds go back to the individual theaters and the directorate receives a commission. "It varies," Belov said about the commission. "It's not much."

Any unsold tickets are collected by the respective theaters about four hours before the curtain rises and go on sale at the box office before showtime. About 33 percent of tickets are returned by kiosks: an improvement on leaner years when over half came back, Belov said.

The Bolshoi Theater sells its tickets at the EPS box office, next to Okhotny Ryad metro station on Teatralnaya Ploshchad.

But for those stuck in the office or simply prepared to pay a little extra for convenience, plenty of places are wise to theater lovers' frustrations and offer a range of hassle-free alternatives.

Tickets can often be booked over the telephone, and for a comparatively small fee, many theaters will deliver. The Satirikon Theater (, the Meyerhold Center and the Helikon Opera ( all offer telephone booking and, in most cases, deliver for no more than 50 rubles.

Of the online resources, and are the most official, though the latter, which compares itself to U.S., has lately been out of order. The online prices may not be as cheap as the box office, but virtual scalpers can often come up with choice seats or tickets for less accessible shows.

Ginkas' version of Chekhov's "Black Monk" was offered by the site for around 1,500 rubles ($52). Tickets normally retail at 150 rubles.

Bileti Plus, at, offers tickets for selected theaters and concert halls and includes floor plans.

When buying tickets to the Bolshoi, a copy of the site's 3-D Bolshoi layout can also boost confidence when buying from the scalpers who lurk outside the august venue.

Outside the Bolshoi, Viktor, a student who makes ends meet by selling Bolshoi tickets, recommends approaching lone scalpers since bigger groups are more likely to work unsuspecting tourists by hiking prices or unloading tickets that ostensibly seem like a good deal, but once inside prove quite the opposite. Just before the show, look for theatergoers selling spare tickets for cheap, which can be a boon for the lone theatergoer.

Viktor even has his own business cards complete with a transplanted Bolshoi logo and his mobile number. "Respectability sells," he said.

It is rare to find scalpers pushing bootleg tickets. It's bad for business and those that try it are "sorted out" within the group, he said.

And there is another consolation as spring approaches. In what Olga Zharikova, head of the Theater Yunogo Zritelya ticket office, lamented in a recent telephone interview as "a national obsession," plenty of tickets are freed up as Muscovites head for the dacha.

See The Beat for complete theater listings and addresses. Bileti Plus The Bolshoi Theater (ticket link under construction) The Helikon Opera Lenkom The Satirikon Theater