Thursday, July 31, 2008


Movie night isn’t cheap these days. Not with full price adult admissions running $12-14 in some cities. The smallest container of popcorn goes for around five bucks...a couple more bucks to quench your thirst with a soft drink…and why is that patented movie theater room-temperature low-pressure water fountain always on the blink? Throw in parking fees and a babysitter, and it’s little wonder the multiplex aims almost exclusively for free-spending teenagers.

Netflix and Blockbuster are viable options….but sometimes you want to get out of the house and let someone else pay for the air conditioning. Besides, some movies just plain play better on a big screen with a big crowd.

A family of four rushing out for the latest Pixar or Disney offering on opening weekend can expect to shell out upwards of $75, not to mention the ubiquitous marketing tie-ins. Talk about sticker shock. Paying full price for movie tickets is tough to justify, knowing you’ll probably own the video for around ten bucks in six months.

Here at CHEAPIOSITY, our team of experts have pondered the issue and come up with a few tips that just might make your next trip to the movies a little less expensive:

Seek out free showings. (Well, duh, CHEAPIOSITY. Free would be cheap. But how...?) Major movie chains sometimes offer free family matinees. Regal Theaters offer Free Family Film Festivals, for matinee showings of family films, mid-week. Check your local theater chains to find out if such programs exist near you.

Clip coupons. Check all circulars (grocery stores or otherwise) for discount coupons. Once you’re on the lookout, you’ll be surprised you never noticed them before.

If drive-ins still exist in your area, check them out. (Good luck finding one.) They may have per-car specials, children generally get in for free, and the price of admission will be cheaper and so will the concessions. And so will the picture and sound quality. But hey, it’s a night out. Sorta. We love a drive-in. Are we dating ourselves even suggesting this option? Probably...

Look for Independent Theaters. They will offer current films, a few weeks after release and at much reduced prices….sometimes as much as 70% off a chain’s price. Very often they will feature special matinee prices as well.

Many chains offer discounts on tickets if you buy in bulk. Also, Costco and other warehouse stores sell movie tickets in prepackaged quantities at a discount. Not-for-Profit organizations sometimes get bulk deals from Theater Chains at greatly discounted prices. There is one downside to this: these tickets are not always good for special engagements (like the first 2 weeks of a movie’s release) so always check for restrictions before making your plans and purchases.

Avoid on-line reservations sites. Almost all of them charge a surcharge of a $1 or more per ticket. They are sites like,, etc. However, sometimes you can buy directly from the movie chain online, where there is no handling charge. Policies change from chain to chain, so check their sites carefully.

If you going to buy snacks, buy the largest sizes and share….at least you’ll get more bang for your buck. Some nefarious CHEAPIOSITY staffers sink so low as to sneak in snacks and avoid the concession inflation problem altogether. Other more scrupulous CHEAPIOSITY staffers have heard tales of folks getting tossed out on their ear for violating theater rules in this regard. Your call.

Go to the movies at off-times. Weekday matinees are discounted. Some chains have “twilight” showings (so you can go right after work) at a discounted rate. It goes without saying that weekends and holidays are the days to avoid if you want to save a buck. ). One of the ‘senior’ members of Team CHEAPIOSITY wanted to see a well reviewed foreign film at his local art theater and discovered a Senior Matinee price on Wednesdays for $4, considerably cheaper than the usual senior price of $7, and a whopping 60% less than the normal $10 adult admission.

Join theater chain loyalty clubs, so you can take advantage of discounts. Check theater chain websites (You can find links to most of the major chains here: Check these sites for discount coupons to print out and take to the box office and other offers and contests worth your time and pre-planning. For a few examples, Regal Entertainment group is offering a sweepstakes online for a free year of movie tickets, and their super saver tickets will save you up to 40%. Southern California's Laemmle Theatres offer significant discounts on admissions and concessions bought online and in large quantities. AMC Theatres offer Summer Camp bargains and the usual bulk discounts on tickets and concessions. Our local art film theater provides a frequent viewer card as incentive; after six tickets, the seventh movie is free.

Another way to get cheap movie tickets is to see if your employer has a corporate program with any of the big movie theater companies. Many companies make a corporate arrangement with theater chains, allowing employees to purchase unrestricted movie tickets for only $6 each. It doesn’t hurt to ask. A perk's a perk.

If you’re self-employed, see if your home business can get in on a corporate purchase plan with area movie theaters to get cheap movie tickets. You may need to buy your tickets in batches of twenty five or fifty, but if you see movies frequently, the savings will pay off pretty quickly. If you’re a member of the National Association for the Self Employed, you can also get cheap movie tickets (as well as other terrific advice, support and information) through them.

If you belong to a credit union or business association, see if they offer a discount movie ticket program. If you’re a student, see if your school has cheap movie tickets to offer you. Many banks, unions, clubs and other associations participate in bulk discounting as well. Ask around.

Check with local community groups and schools to find Entertainment Books; these fundraisers are filled with a wide range of coupons and usually include heavily discounted movie theater tickets.

Free movie tickets are often part of cross-promotional campaigns. Some brands (usually cereals and soft drinks) and supermarket chains offer free tickets with purchases. Watch out for these offers and plan ahead. For example, the famous chocolate maker Hershey’s advertises an offer in which one must collect 16 points from specially marked packages of Milk Duds Candy, Whoppers Malted Milk Balls, or Hershey’s Bites Candies to exchange for one free movie ticket.

Free movie screenings are available in many cities; you can look for passes and opportunities online. There are plenty of sites to check; try this one: FilmMetro

As you can see, there are ways to avoid paying full price. So go to the movies. Just don’t be a chump about it.

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