How to Watch Movies in the Theater for Free

By Daniel Packer on 29 April 2011 (Updated 25 August 2011) 53 comments
Photo: Photolyric

I know this sounds amazing, and there's a kicker — you can see these movies in theaters for free BEFORE they're released to the general public!

It sounds too good to be true, but it can be done really easily. For the past year or so, I have been attending movies in theaters before they've been released. I pay nothing to see them, and to top it off, there are often no previews, so 100 minutes actually means 100 minutes.

Some movie studios provide free screenings of movies. They do this to build interest in a movie, to do research, and to allow the press to review it. If people have a good experience, they'll tell their friends and write positive reviews.

These are the same movies you can see a few weeks later for $12 a pop. Over the past six months, I've seen The Green Hornet (awesome movie!), The Next Three Days, and Limitless, among others, all a few weeks before they were released to the general public, and all for the family friendly price of "on the house." (See also: Never Pay for a RedBox DVD Rental Again)

How to See Movies in the Theater for Free

It's a very simple process, you just need to know where to look. There are two main sites that I frequent — GoFobo and Film Metro — though I'm sure there are others I haven't heard of. Some of the screenings will be available to you, in which case you just need to reserve and print your tickets (each reservation typically comes with two). For some movies, you'll need an RSVP code first. A good place to look for those is rsvpcodes.com, where people enter city and movie-specific codes for others to use.

What to Know Before Attending a Screening

There are several things you should keep in mind for these screenings:

1. Reserving a ticket doesn't guarantee you access to a movie.

For most movies, people enter on a first-come, first-served basis. I usually find that getting to the theater 30 minutes early is plenty.

2. Not every movie will be available.

I've never been disappointed by the selection, but when movies are free, it's a little difficult to complain if something's not perfect.

3. It might not work in rural areas.

If you live in the middle of Montana, it's unlikely that there are a lot of screenings in your area. I live in Washington, D.C., where free screenings are very common.

Enjoy your new knowledge, and feel free to go crazy with the popcorn and soda. When you save $20+ on a movie, there's no harm in splurging a little on the snacks!

If you're looking for more ways to save on entertainment, including local restaurants and stores, get the 2012 Entertainment Book, with coupons valid immediately!

Save on all the things you love to do!

If you enjoyed this story please share it on StumbleUpon!

3.214285
Average: 3.2 (28 votes)
Your rating: None
ShareThis

comments

53 discussions

Add New Comment

CAPTCHA
This test helps prevent automated spam submissions.
Guest's picture
Maggie

If you live in Dallas/Fort Worth or Austin, http://www.gordonandthewhale.com is an awesome way to get free tickets on a regular basis. I live in Austin, and I have the opportunity to see 4-8 free movies per month. I'm a little picky, so I usually only want to see 2 or 3 a month. All you do is sign up, wait a few days for an email with your tickets, and show up at the theater 45 mins early. I've even gotten a few free passes that can be used at any theater/time.

Meg Favreau's picture

For those in the Philadelphia area, the blog Philebrity -- http://www.philebrity.com -- occasionally offers free screening tickets as well.

Guest's picture
Kacey

I was just about to pimp http://gordonandthewhale.com myself and was excited to see them at the top of the comments!

Guest's picture

I wish i was in Dallas...but im in Malaysia..pity me..

Guest's picture
Cinema Paradiso

For New York City I highly suggest to arrive at least an hour (if not two for major blockbusters).

Guest's picture

good post! we get tons of free movie screenings in LA. I should take advantage of it, but the showtimes are so limited.

Guest's picture
Guest

i have been going to movie prescreenings for a few years as well. one site that i visit often is fatwallet.com.

Guest's picture

♥ ♥This one gets bookmark status for me. Our family loves the movies. The word FREE is music to anyone's ears. There's nothing like the theater. ♥ ♥

Guest's picture
Lbergs

Great post!!! Except one thing... the previews are the BEST part!!! :-)

Guest's picture
C.V.

I wouldn't recommend it to people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I used to be a diehard free movie goer, but the time needed to wait in line to be ensured a theater seat got earlier and earlier - from 45 minutes to an hour to an hour and a half and so on. Also, not all of the movies need only a convenient print-out ticket. Advanced passes can be found at random shops around town - the gas and time spent driving to pick up movie passes are also ridiculous.

But if you're in the DFW and are yearning to see movies in advance, here's a Yahoo Group dedicated to free movie screenings in our neck of the woods: http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/DallasMovieScreenings/. Beware - this group grows daily so the competition for those small number of seats is fierce.

Guest's picture

I will definitely have to give this a check-out. Thanks for the tip!

Guest's picture
Ed

Hey, I live in DC too! Let's catch a movie! Thanks for the tips!

Guest's picture
Guest

If you live in Chicago, in the summer they have free films at the Cultural Center downton on Wednesdays at 6:30 (and sometimes repeated on Saturdays). This works best for people who work downtown (or retirees or the unemployed). They are all foreign films, so you'd better like subtitles! Some are in English (if they are from English-speaking countries).

Guest's picture
Guest

i live in the middle of montana... :(

Guest's picture
Guest

Why?!

Guest's picture
Guest

so cool do they do this for the uk too ?

Guest's picture
Guest

Really cool, do you know if anything like this exists in Australia? And what website to use? I've been searching but no luck...

Guest's picture
Guest

I agree its fun and free but when you include the time you need to get to the theater early enough to get far enough up in line and the time you wait for them to get everything together once your inside, its usually as long as the movie itself. Also not everyone qualifies for every screening, sometimes its limited by age, gender and so forth.

Guest's picture
Stutz

A lot of the folks I worked with at a movie theater when I was in college are theater managers now. So I pretty much watch free movies whenever I want. I highly recommend this method.

Guest's picture
Stoobert

Man I was reading this and getting excited, but started to think, "I bet they don't do this in Montana..."
and then you dropped the bomb, "If you live in the middle of Montana, it's unlikely that there are a lot of screenings in your area."
FML
I'll just have to stick to befriending the people that work at the theater so I can get free tickets lol.
Nice post though.

Guest's picture
Guest

Only helpful if you live in the handful of cities that have screenings. I don't live "in the middle of Montana", but in hampton roads, VA, a 4 city area with over a million residents. Yet I could not find a screening within a hundred miles.

Guest's picture
Guest-

This probably has nothing to do with hype. Movie theaters get almost all of there money from concessions, so if they can get people in for free they will be more apt to spend money on popcorn and whatnot (sort of like you said not feeling bad for splurging). I know someone who works at the movie theater near me and they let me in for free every time, because they don't make any money off the tickets anyway.
P.S. free movies are great

Guest's picture
Guest

this doesn't work in australia :(

Guest's picture
Guest

So I reserved some tickets online. I plan to go with my boyfriend. But I still don't have to pay for the ticket when I get to the movie theater? I just show them this and it gets me in, guaranteed, for free?...that is, if I get there in time.

Guest's picture
Guest

I live in Holland so I don't think there's a chance for me in this. although I find it really cool that you post this on the internet so people, with less money then others, can go to the movies as well! thanks in the name of them!

Guest's picture
hannah

Sounds like another perk of not living in Montana! Actually, you'd probably have better luck in the middle of Montana than over here on the edge. There are actually a few people there.

Guest's picture

Well with the internet being international and these movie previews being American, it really does leave the rest feeling a little left out. Besides, I know the purpose of these previews is to do any last minute edits to a film before it gets released... In case the movie studios haven;t woken up yet, the rest of the world has different opinions about movies than just the US, so maybe its time they start doing these thing internationally to better judge and edit their films to suit the majority of the people who will see them... just a thought.

Guest's picture
Doss

at the theatre near me, the bathroom is in the lobby, and not really near the theaters, so I just walk into the bathroom, hang out for a couple of minutes, and then walk into a movie thats already started, like i was there from the beginning and just left for a piss. from there i skip around to different movies, sometimes catching 7 or 8 in a day

Guest's picture
Apollo

I saw The Incredibles (#1) A month before it was advertised. It was on a whim that me and my friends went to the cinema for the hell of it (summertime is full of boredom). We looked at the films being shown and we noticed The Incredibles, we were like "hey I saw the teaser to that film, it looks good!" So we watched it..... only downfall, they still charged us. The UK might run against the current to this brilliant scheme.

Guest's picture
Guest

I work at a movie theater, and when I first read the title, I was like 'oh man not cool' cuz I thought you were just being cheap and sneaking in. Then I kept reading and I was like 'oh he's not being a jerk he's just kind of lucky. I wish our theater did this (when I thought back I realized I'd have to WORK these free screenings, so maybe not after all). Then I saw the quip about Montana..... yeah.... my theater's in Bozeman..... Cracked up :)

Guest's picture
pudding

does any one know a good way of doing this in the uk, coz on gofobo it doesnt recognize any nearby postcodes, so i dont know if this is because it is out of the area

Guest's picture
Ciarra

Another option would be to get a job at a movie theater.

Guest's picture
Guest

have you got any sites for the uk?

Guest's picture
Guest

damnit! I was so interested in this until i read "if you live in the middle of Montana it wont happen very often!" Guess where this guy lives? :(

Guest's picture
Guest

damn i live in the middle of montana :(

Guest's picture
Brett

What happened to the good old just sneaking into movies...used to be so easy. Security in everything has become so strict...but for good reason I guess

Guest's picture
Mr. A

I do live in the middle of Montana. You're right. No free mainstream movies. Lame! However, we get loads of free independent movies. It's kinda hit or miss, but every once in a while there's a gem that the rest of the world will probably never see because, well, let's face it, it's still an independent film.

Guest's picture
Doktor

Great post!!! Except one thing... the previews are the very BEST part...

Guest's picture
Guest

apparently, my postal code isn't an actual postal code and so I can't see any free movies :c

Guest's picture
TheGooch

I stopped reading when you said that The Green Hornet was a good movie. I do second Fatwallet.com's Free Movie forum, though.

Guest's picture
Guest

or you could just work at a movie theatre that works way better.

Guest's picture
Guest

This is why America is going down the drain. Spending money is good and scavenging for free stuff is bad. The movie business is already slowly disappearing with netflix and movies becoming digital, the movie industry is trying to bump out the theater and go directly into you homes. The old 35mm is hard to find and that was what was keeping movie theaters alive. So if you love the movie theater experience so much, suck it up and pay because by doing that you are keeping that experience alive for your kids' generation and the ones fallowing.

Guest's picture
Johnny Boy

What about if you live in Hollywood? O_0

Guest's picture
Aidy

I knew of gofobo. Get to those screenings early, an hour early if you have to. Gets pretty crowded. Thanks for the tips!

Kelly Kehoe's picture

With movie prices hovering around $10-13+ where I live, this article is definitely a breath of fresh air. I don't live too far from LA, either, so I'll be checking out these sites for future screenings!

Guest's picture
Seth

I live in the middle of Montana....

Guest's picture

I love free movies. I also save money on movies by bringing my own candy, popcorn and drinks. I know it is against the rules....don't tell :)

Guest's picture

I live in Colorado, and the Westword always has ads for prescreened movies for free. It's a great way to get the up and up on new flicks, as well as a frugal way to enjoy time with friends or on a date. Great post!

Guest's picture
Guestdonna sabol

Advance screenings not only allow a fun outing, it gives a great way too spread the word of mouth publicity!

Guest's picture
Guest

Things you should know about these screenings: Not that it's always the case, but often these free advance screenings are organized horribly. They over-book the theater several hundreds, to ensure they fill the theater. What this means for you, is if you show up even 2 hours early, there is still a chance you won't get in. I speak from experience, twice as a matter of fact, and I've given up on going to them. 3 hours waiting in line for "Man on a Ledge," which I didn't even want to see that much. I was life the 12th person in line, by the time the started letting people in, there were several hundred people in line behind me. Those 11 other people in front of me, let like 30 or 40 people cut in line, and by the time I walked inside the theater, there were no available seats. The organizers were kind enough to give me passes to another advance screening of the same film, but why would I waste another 3 hours of my life like that again.

Guest's picture

Just found this page. Really good post. I live in NY and there are tons of new premiers available, I'm sure. Will have to check out the links that you provided for some free tickets

Guest's picture
Melanee

Haha. I live smack dab in the middle of Montana. ohh we'll. Great to know for future reference!

Guest's picture
FrugalCat

Who would have thought so many people live in the middle of Montana?