10 Ways to Save on a Night (or Day) at the Movies

By Kelly Kehoe on 7 June 2013 (Updated 22 August 2013) 1 comment

Going to the movies has always been a popular form of entertainment, but the days of nickelodeon theaters are over. With movie ticket prices averaging $7.94 nationally (including matinee and children’s ticket prices), a typical night at the movies for a family of four could cost in excess of $50, including popcorn and drinks. (See also: 25 Great Movies About Money)

Instead of paying full price at the cinema, consider some of these 10 ways to save on movies.

1. Take Advantage of Matinees

Most movie theaters offer cheaper tickets for earlier show times. Matinee prices at local cinemas could cost as little as $4, while larger theater chains charge around $8-10, depending on your location. The earlier you go, the better (some cinemas have tiered pricing structures: before 12 p.m., before 5 or 6 p.m., and after).

2. Bargain Tuesdays and Sundays

If seeing a movie in the morning isn’t possible for your work or school schedule, many movie theaters also offer cheaper ticket prices on select days of the week. Tuesday is generally one of the slower days for movie theaters (along with Sunday), hence the ticket discounts offered on these days. Some theaters charge half price admission, while others charge around $5 per ticket (again, prices depend on where you live).

3. Rethink Midnight Premieres

Midnight premieres have become something of a cultural phenomenon in recent years, with hordes of fans showing up to be the first ones to see "Harry Potter," "The Avengers," "The Dark Knight Rises," and other highly anticipated films. Movie theaters love midnight premieres as much as the moviegoers do; they’re able to charge more for tickets to the late night showings. Even with inflated prices, premiere tickets still sell out for the top movies. For a frugal movie fan, however, you’re better off waiting at least until the next morning (or until it hits cable, if everyone agrees it's a dud) for new releases.

4. Free Movie Screenings

If you Google "free movie screenings" or check your local newspaper’s entertainment section, you might be surprised to find a limited selection of movies screening in advance. Studios use movie screenings to gauge the crowd’s reaction and to generate early buzz for the film. It’s a win-win situation, because studios get publicity and the moviegoers get free tickets.

5. Avoid the Concession Stand

Here’s an oft-said but seldom-followed mantra of saving at the movies — don’t buy food or drinks at the theater. The markups are quite high compared to what you’ll pay for popcorn, candy, and soda elsewhere, so either eat a meal beforehand or bring your own water and snacks, if you can.

6. Support Dollar Theaters

If you don’t mind waiting several weeks after a film is initially released, then why not see the movie in a dollar theater? Waiting it out can save you a bundle on movie ticket prices, and the only difference is when you get to see the movie in theaters. Alternatively, you could just wait until the film comes out on DVD and rent it from Netflix or RedBox or stream it from Amazon or iTunes.

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7. Ditch 3D

Ever since the smashing success of "Avatar" in 3D, more and more studios have been releasing films in both regular and 3D formats. Unfortunately for moviegoers, ticket prices for 3D films are more expensive (a few dollars on top of the regular ticket price), and for some, 3D films cause headaches. And while some films are genuinely shot as 3D, others are merely converted from 2D to 3D in post production, which puts a damper on the 3D viewing experience. We managed just fine before the 3D craze; save your money and see the 2D movie instead.

8. Sign Up for Discounts

Many movie theaters offer discounts to regular patrons who sign up for their movie clubs or like them on Facebook. Some theaters also have customer surveys in which you could win free movie tickets after submitting the form.

9. Get Credit Card Movie Rewards

If you own a rewards credit card, you could get some discounts or even free tickets at the movie theater. Several credit cards offer movie rewards to their cardholders:

10. Buy Tickets in Bulk

Buying tickets in bulk is another great way to cut back on movie expenses. Bulktix.com offers tickets in bundles. Major chains such as AMC and Regal Entertainment allow you to purchase mass quantities (50 or more) for prices as low as $6.50-$8.00. If paying this much money on movie tickets upfront is too much, then consider splitting the cost and tickets bundle with friends, family, and coworkers. This way, everyone gets a sweet discount on movie tickets.

How do you save money at the movies? Tell us your frugal tips in the comment section below!

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Nancy

I buy gift cards at a discount from giftcardrescue.com or cardpool.com. In fact, I bought two Regal cards today at a 12% discount. In addition, my husband and I now qualify for the senior discount.