Going to See a Summer Blockbuster? Here Are 15 Ways to Save at the Movies
They’re calling it “Barbenheimer.”
Two huge summer blockbusters — “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” — are about to hit movie theaters at the same time. They both arrive on Friday, July 21.
If it’s been a while since you saw a movie on the big screen, this might be what it takes to lure you back into the theater. On the other hand, if it’s been a while since you’ve actually gone to a movie theater, prepare yourself for some sticker shock. Movie tickets have gotten expensive.
Movie theaters lost a lot of business during the Covid pandemic, and they’ve also lost customers to streaming services. To make up the difference, ticket prices have skyrocketed.
Nowadays, ticket prices typically range from $10 to $15. If you splurge for soda, candy or popcorn, the cost of a trip to the movies adds up quickly.
15 Ways to Save Money at the Movie Theater
Fortunately, we’ve got ideas for how you can save a buck or two at the movies. Check out our list of 15 ways to spend less at the theater.
1. Go to Matinees
Going to a matinee can knock up to 30% off the ticket price, but watch out for the theater’s definition of “matinee.”
Shows before 4 p.m. used to be called matinees at most theaters, but some now charge the evening price for anything that starts after 3 p.m.
2. Go to Pre-Matinees
Some theaters offer an even better deal for really early movies — “pre-matinees.”
These typically apply to movies starting before noon.
3. Go on Tuesday!
America’s three largest movie theater chains all have the same discount day — Tuesday. You also have to join their customer loyalty club to get the Tuesday discount, but that’s usually free.
AMC: The biggest chain in the U.S. has Discount Tuesdays if you’re a member of its loyalty club, which is called AMC Stubs. You can join for free, although there’s also a premium option you can pay for if you want. As for Discount Tuesdays, the ticket price varies by location.
Regal Cinemas: These theaters have Regal Value Days on Tuesdays, when Regal Crown Club members get discounted movie ticket prices and 50% off popcorn. The club is free to join. A look at this theater-by-theater list shows that most Regal theaters charge either $5 or $5.95 for movie tickets on Tuesdays.
Cinemark: This theater chain has Discount Tuesdays if you’re a Cinemark Movie Rewards member. There’s a free option or a $10-per-month option that gets you more perks. Again, the ticket price on Tuesdays varies by location.
4. Buy at Your Warehouse Club — In Person or Online
Seriously, you should make full use of those warehouse club memberships! If you shop at Sam’s Club or Costco, ask about theater tickets at the customer service desk. They often have them at a discount.
5. Try Groupon
It’s kind of a crapshoot, obviously. But you can always hop on Groupon to see what kind of movie ticket deals are going on there. We see deals for AMC, Regal and Cinemark theaters there, off and on.
The website LivingSocial is another option to check here.
6. Eat Before You Go
These days, lots of movie theaters go well beyond popcorn, Sno-Caps and Raisinets. If you’re hungry, you’ll be super tempted by the hot dogs, nachos, cheese fries, chicken tenders, pizza…
And they’re all way overpriced, of course.
You’d be better off eating in a restaurant beforehand.
Save even more money by eating at home before you go.
7. Share the Snacks
Theaters don’t want you to bring your own food.
But we haven’t seen them stop parents who bring their own paper bags to divvy up a large bucket of popcorn between the kids.
It’s much cheaper than buying a small bag of popcorn for each person. Share other snacks to save money.
8. Get Special Discounts
You might qualify for special discounts — and you could save up to 35%. Here are some examples:
- AMC Theatres offers military, senior and student discounts. The exact amounts can be seen at the box office.
- Regal Cinemas offers military discounts, senior discounts and student discounts. Again, the discounts are offered at the box office.
- Cinemark has military, senior and student discounts, too.
9. Buy Discount Movie Gift Cards
There are a number of places where you can buy discounted theater gift cards online. For example, you can buy AMC gift cards on online marketplaces like Raise for discounts of up to 25%.
Use them for matinees, and your total cost might be less than half of what an evening ticket costs.
10. Go to Discount Theaters
These are also called late-run movie theaters. You’ll see the same movie, so why not wait a couple of months and catch it for less?
Just search “discount theater” plus the name of your city to locate cheap movies.
11. Join the Club
Most theaters have a club or loyalty program you can join to save money. Here are some examples:
The largest theater chain’s loyalty club, AMC Stubs, has three tiers.
- Insider is free and gets you perks like Discount Tuesdays, which is probably the main attraction here. You also earn $5 back for every $50 you spend.
- Premiere seems pricy to us. It costs $15 per month and lets you reserve theater tickets online for free. You can also upsize your popcorn and fountain drinks. Doesn’t sound like a great deal.
- A-List lets you see three movies a week for $20 a month. That’s a lot of movies.
Cinemark has Movie Fan, which is free, and Movie Club, which costs $10 a month and gets you one movie a month and 20% off concessions.
12. Go to a Drive-In Theater
Check DriveInMovie.com to see if one of the few remaining drive-in theaters is near you.
Call or check online to see if they have discount days or a price-per-car night when you can bring the whole family or split the cost with friends. And check out our tips for maximizing the fun.
13. Go to Advance Screenings for Free
Movie companies sometimes offer free tickets to the public for advance screenings. If you get one, go early — movie screenings often get overbooked.
Here are a few places you can check to see if anything is available near you:
14. Buy in Bulk for a Discount
15. Go to Late Shows
Some theaters offer cheap tickets for late-night shows — sometimes at matinee prices.
Showings typically start around midnight. If you’re a night owl, this can be a great way to avoid the crowds and save a few bucks.
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Steve Gillman is a former contributor to The Penny Hoarder.