Cinema chains do a land-office business in the summer, when audiences seek an escape from the heat and the humdrum of daily life. But even this hideaway is becoming increasingly expensive. With the average ticket price closing in on $10, never mind the outlay for snacks (and babysitter), how can you get in some quality screen time without overspending your entertainment budget?
10 Ways to Save Money at the Movies
It's no secret that a matinee time slot at most cinemas is cheaper than a Friday-night showing of the same movie. Movie theaters have traditionally offered discounted matinee prices but now some theaters cut prices on certain days regardless of the hour. The next time you want to see the latest box office hit, check if it's cheaper on a Tuesday than a Friday.
Avoid paying full price for movie tickets by keeping an eye on daily deal sites and apps for discounted tickets. Living Social, Groupon, and Google Offers have all offered movie tickets for less than face value at some point in the past year.
In addition to having discount days, movie theaters may also offer memberships with special prices on concessions and rewards programs that let customers earn free tickets or snacks. For example, the Regal Crown Club (Regal Cinemas, United Artists Theatres, and Edwards Theatres) is free to join, and members can buy $2 candy on Mondays and $2 popcorn on Tuesdays. Members also accumulate points toward free movie passes with each purchase.
Instead of going to the biggest movie theater in town, hit up the drive-in or dollar theater. Drive-ins often charge a flat fee per car, meaning you can easily get four to six people to a movie for less than $25. As for so-called dollar theaters, some still are dollar theaters. At Cinemark Carriage Place Movies 12 in Columbus, Ohio, the price for a single ticket is $1 to $4 depending on the day. The downside is that the shows often are limited to movies that have been playing for a long time.
You can sign up online for lists like Gofobo or Advance Screenings and learn where and how to access free movie screenings in your area. You can also listen to the radio; many radio shows give away free movie screenings as contest winnings.
Dealflicks is an app that helps movie theaters fill up seats that would otherwise sit empty by brokering discount ticket prices at the box office (exactly how much is at the theater's discretion). Use the app or the website to find cheap movie tickets at 15 percent to 60 percent off retail and bundle packages, such as two tickets, two drinks, and one popcorn, for the same steep discount. The app is available for iPhone and Android users.
Several credit card companies offer movie-related perks to cardholders. Visa Signature, for example, often makes available buy-one-get-one-free tickets when cardholders buy tickets through Fandango; the Citi Private Pass program, open to holders of Citi credit and debit cards, sometimes offers free or deeply discounted movie passes.
Save even more money by avoiding the concession stand. Movie theaters post profit margins of 85 percent or higher on drinks and snacks, according to estimates cited by The Hollywood Reporter. An obvious solution is to buy that box of Sour Patch Kids at the grocery store instead of spending $5 at the theater, but many cinemas ban outside food and beverages. Bars in cinemas seem to be increasingly popular but are stocked with overpriced beverages designed to loosen the purse strings. Arrive at the theater with self-control in hand.
Finally, remember that box-office hits cost less when viewed on DVD rather than in a theater. The savings multiply when the entire family is watching. If you really want to reduce household expenses, make movie outings a rare treat and turn movie nights at home into special occasions.