London's newest tourist attraction is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a two-part sequel to the Harry Potter books. Bizarrely for the most popular character franchise of all time, author J.K. Rowling, whose judgment is usually so unerring, decided it should first be not a film, which everyone can enjoy, but a play, which only 1,400 people at a time can see. Worse, the play is in two parts, requiring visitors to attend twice—which cuts the number of times the story can be fully told to just four times a week instead of eight, the usual number a West End play is performed each week. Each show has a top ticket prices at £140 ($181) by the Palace Theatre, the play's gorgeous, 125-year-old venue.
A few weeks ago, 250,000 more tickets went on sale and were snapped up within the day. Unsurprisingly, tourists from around the world are planning their London vacations around whatever dates they're lucky enough to score seats.
Also unsurprisingly, with people around the world eager to snag seats and book visits to London, scalpers are behaving like soul-sucking Dementors. A single ticket to only part two of Cursed Child recently sold for £8,327.19, or US$10,768. Of that, £1,772.53 (US$2,292) was a service fee that went to the Viagogo, the "secondary market" ticket seller that perpetrated the gouge.
Staff at the Palace Theatre are fighting back. Anyone whose ticket bears evidence of having been sold on the secondary market, including from sites such as Stubhub, will now be refused. There's a queue around the block for standby seats, and suspicious seats will simply be given to one of the people who spent all day in line trying their luck.
Which boils down to two pieces of advice if you're dying to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child but haven't been able to secure seats: Buying them for jacked-up rates may be turn out to be a very expensive fail. And the chances of getting a standby seat just improved dramatically.
Tourists take photos outside the Palace Theatre, London (Credit: Jason Cochran)