My wife and I signed up for Amazon Prime, which includes Amazon Instant Video. We canceled after watching dozens of movies during our free month.
We also did a free trial of Netflix, and now pay $7.99 per month for the streaming service. We love watching movies at home — and it’s cheap.
But some movies really should be seen on the big screen, right? Especially that one outer space movie coming out Dec. 18. What’s it called again?
Oh, yeah: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
And maybe you don’t always want to wait for it to come to Netflix or Amazon. It’s also nice to get out of the house.
The problem is, movies are expensive!
In one poll, most respondents said they don’t go to the movies more often because of high ticket prices. Then there’s the popcorn, candy and $4.75 water bottles! Really, I recently saw that at a local theater. And if you have hungry kids, two-hours at the cinema could break your budget.
Fortunately, help has arrived. Check out 22 ways to spend less at the movies.
1. Go to Matinees
Going to a matinee can knock up to 30% off the ticket price, but watch those definitions.
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.”
For example, Cinemark’s Early Bird discount applies to movies starting before noon.
3. Go on Discount Days
Our local Frank Theatre offers $6 Movie Tuesdays.
This is also the only theater where we’ll eat popcorn, it’s $2.50 for a medium on Tuesdays.
4. Eat Before You Go
We often go out to a healthy lunch at a sit-down restaurant before a matinee.
Done right, it can cost less than buying movie theater snacks. See my post on how to eat out for less.
Save even more money by eating at home before you go.
5. Share the Snacks
Theaters don’t want you to bring your own food.
But I 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.
6. Get Special Discounts
You might qualify for several special discounts — and you could save up to 35%. Here are some examples:
- Cinemark Seniors Day
- Cinemark Student Discount
- Cinemark Military Discount
- AMC Student Day and Senior Day
- Regal Entertainment Special Discounts
7. 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 Theater gift cards on Raise for a discount of up to 25%.
Use them for matinees, and your total cost might be less than half of what an evening ticket costs.
8. Go to Discount Theaters
These are also called late-run movie theaters. You’ll see the same movie, so why not wait a couple months and catch it for less?
At Silver Cinemas in Phoenix, Arizona, movies are $3 every day, and just $1.50 on Tuesdays. Just search “discount theater” plus the name of your city to locate cheap movies.
9. Join the Club
Most theaters have a club or loyalty program you can join to save money. Here are some examples:
- Regal Crown Club: Free to join, and rewards include free popcorn and drinks, and a free movie for each $150 you spend
- AMC Stubs: A $12 annual fee, and you’ll get free concession “upgrades” and a $10 credit for every $100 spent
- Frank Theatres Loyalty Program: Free to join, and you’ll get points for movie and concession purchases you can redeem for free movies or snacks
They call these loyalty programs, but there’s no need to be loyal.
Sign up for any free ones — and then go get the best deals with your card.
10. Go to a Drive-In Theater
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.
11. Use a Rewards Credit Card
Most Discover Cards offers 5% cashback for restaurants and movie theaters for three months each year.
Chase Freedom also has rotating categories that sometimes include movie theaters. Saving 5% may not sound like much, but combine this with other some of these other strategies for bigger savings.
12. Buy in Bulk for a Discount
13. Get a Business Discount
Theaters discount tickets for businesses that buy them as gifts for employees or others. Of course, there’s no reason you can’t use them yourself.
These three chains offer business discounts:
14. Use Your Rewards Points
Some credit card rewards programs offer theater gift cards as redemption options. For example, my wife recently received a $25 AMC gift card from Capital One.
Other rewards programs also offer free movies. For example, it takes 940 Coke Rewards points to get two Fandango tickets.
15. Skip the 3D Version
It’s worth seeing a 3D movie at least once (Star Wars!), but it may not be worth the higher price for most films.
In fact, most are not even filmed in 3D, but converted after production.
“There’s a limit to what can be done post-production,” according to RealOrFake3D.com. The site lists which movies are real 3D and which are “fake.”
16. Use 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.
17. Buy at the Theater
Sites like Fandango charge extra for tickets (they have to make money somehow), which is why most people still pay at the theater.
Skip the line, and use the kiosk!
18. 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.
19. Become a Secret Shopper
As a secret shopper for movie theaters you not only save money but you can be paid to attend movie premieres. Occasionally you can bring a friend for free, too.
20. Go to Advance Screenings for Free
Movie companies sometimes offer free tickets to the public for advance screenings. If you get one, go early — movies screenings often get overbooked.
Here are a few places you can check to see if anything is available near you:
See Althea Clarke’s post on ways to get free tickets to advance movie screenings for more tips on how to snag these freebies.
21. Use Group-Buying Websites
22. Go to Free Summer Movies
Free summer movie programs are common, and many are outdoors. Here are some of the larger cities with free outdoor movies:
Search online for “free outdoor movies” plus the name of your state, province or community to see what’s available near you.
Your Turn: Do you know any other ways to save money going to the movies?
Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!
Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).