Here’s How I’ll Binge Harry Potter in IMAX Without Destroying My Budget

Movie tickets
Image from Harry Potter/Facebook

In case the prevalence of Deathly Hallows tattoos and the existence of an entire theme park dedicated to the franchise didn’t clue you in, allow me: Harry Potter is a big freaking deal.

Yes, still. Even though it’s been five years since the last movie came out — and almost 10 since the last book. ?

The most rabid fans among us are still willing to shell out serious bucks on escaping to the wizarding world whenever possible. Because, seriously, Muggle life is so overrated.

Also because butterbeer.

I would definitely include myself in that “rabid” category. I even wrote Harry Potter fanfiction as a teenager — and no, I won’t tell you my OTP.

So my first reaction to learning that, as part of the hype surrounding the Nov. 18 release of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” select IMAX theaters will screen the eight original films this month

… was unabashed, squealing, jumping-up-and-down glee.

Yes, I was at work when I found out. Why do you ask?

Harry Potter’s Coming Back to the Big Screen This Month

IMAX is partnering with Warner Bros. Pictures to bring all eight of the Harry Potter films to select (very) big screens across the country for one week, beginning on Oct. 13.

This glorious event is amplified by exclusive reels from the new film and — if you’re in London or Los Angeles — a live Q&A with some unspecified “talent from the film.”

It’s also the first time IMAX will screen the first two films in the series, “Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Chamber of Secrets.” Ever.

Like I said, I’m excited.

But I’m also getting ready to cough up serious cash.

Theaters will offer four admission packages, according to the press release:

  • Single tickets
  • Day access (admittance to three or more shows in a single day)
  • Four-show access (admittance to four shows any time, any day)
  • Festival access (just what it sounds like: full-on, unlimited Harry Potter goodness all week long)

And while the release doesn’t list showtimes or prices (you’ll have to check with your local theater for details), you can bet your sorting hat this shindig won’t be cheap.

How Much Will Harry Potter IMAX Tickets Cost?

The price of a single IMAX ticket runs anywhere from $9.79 to $16.85 per adult at my local cinemas here in St. Petersburg, Florida, and as much as $12.04 for kids.

I’ve reached out to IMAX and AMC to find out what the package prices will be like, but I doubt I’m going to be able to see all eight movies — and yes, that’s how serious I am — for less than $50. And that’s a generously low guess.

The films aren’t on Netflix or Hulu, but, yes, I could rent them to stream on Amazon for $2.99 apiece (or $3.99 for HD), reducing my marathon’s price by about half.

Or I could, you know, just go get the DVDs at the library or borrow them from a similarly obsessed friend.

But I think my personal identity as Harry Potter fanatic wins out over my personal identity as Penny Hoarder. (Sorry, team.) I’m not missing the chance to relive some of my formative films on a deliciously gigantic silver screen.

I’m going. But I’m still going to do my best to save money on the splurge.

Here’s my plan.

1. I’ll Buy my Tickets With a Discounted Gift Card

Are you one of those people who gets gift cards as presents… only to forget about them and let them sit idly at the back of your wallet?

Yeah, me neither.

But you can make someone else’s loss your gain! Those folks often list their gift cards for sale on sites like Raise, where you’ll pay less than face value to get ‘em. That means you’ll get an automatic discount on whatever you buy with the card.

Just search for your preferred theater by name to see what’s available (you can see which cinemas are participating in the event here). At the time I wrote this article, AMC gift cards were available for up to 10% off!

2. I’ll Buy That Gift Card With a Rewards Credit Card

Once I nail down the right theater and gift card, I’ll make my purchase using my favorite rewards credit card, so I earn frequent flyer miles for every dollar I spend.

If travel isn’t your thing, try a cash-back card — some even offer quarterly bonuses for category purchases including movie theaters. Depending on which gift cards are available for your cinema, you might even able able to skip step one and buy your tickets directly, saving just as much!

3. I’ll Take Advantage of My Theater’s Rewards Program

Most of the big chains associated with IMAX screens offer rewards programs whose benefits can really add up, especially if you’re a movie buff.

AMC’s Stubs is free at the first tier, which gets you a free refill on your large popcorn and a $2 ticket discount on Tuesdays. If you upgrade to the Premiere level for $15 per year, you’ll get steeper discounts and earn rewards points even faster.

Regal’s Crown Club offers regular attendees concession upgrades, free popcorn and even movie tickets.

Cinemark’s Connections program is free to join, and you’ll get access to loads of free content as well as earning points toward freebies every time you make a purchase.

Check with your location to see what you can get. These programs are almost always free!

4. I’ll Buy Whichever Package Works Best for Me

If I were only interested in seeing a film or two, I’d try to stack them up in a convenient way so I could just purchase a day pass — it’s sure to be cheaper.

Similarly, if only one movie has your heart (#HalfBloodPrince), skip a whole package and just buy a single ticket to that!

But as a completely embarrassing fangirl, I’ll probably spring for the festival pass, or at least the four-show package.

If I try to hold myself to less, I’m likely to change my mind — and waste money buying extra tickets.

5. I’ll Eat Beforehand

Because nothing incentivizes me to spend $20 on a giant bucket of buttery popcorn, a ridiculous box of candy and a large Cherry Coke better than an empty stomach.

6. I’ll Bring My Own Snacks

And since I must have something to munch on while I glom out in front of the screen even if I’ve just had a meal, I’ll admit it: I’m probably gonna smuggle in snacks.

… and wine. Sorry, not sorry.

7. I’ll Walk to the Theater

This one might not work for everyone, but since I’m lucky enough to live in a walkable downtown area, I’ll work off some of my theater snacks — and save gas — by hoofing it the half-mile to the theater.

Bonus: I’ll avoid that pesky $3 fee to park in the downtown garage.

8. I’ll Make Up for It by Skipping Something Else

Finally, perhaps the most important item on the list: I’ll make up for this month’s splurge by finding wiggle room elsewhere in my budget.

Maybe I’ll buy a bottle (or three) less wine this month, or skip the one nice meal out I usually get. Since I’ve built some fun money into my monthly ledger, I can make adjustments on how I use that set amount.

This month, a decent chunk’s going toward a blissful, weeklong Harry Potter coma.

And that’s OK.

Smart personal finance and doable budgeting is all about prioritizing the choices that matter to you.

That’s why setting financial goals is so important, and what makes it — believe it or not — fun!

Besides, knowing what you want your money to do for you — and being able to make it happen — is about as close to magic as you’re likely to get this side of Platform 9 ¾.

Your Turn: Will you be seeing Harry Potter on the big screen all over again this month?

Jamie Cattanach is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder and a total Ravenclaw. Her writing has also been featured at The Write Life, Word Riot, Nashville Review and elsewhere. Find @JamieCattanach on Twitter to wave hello.

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