There are many ways to enjoy a movie these days that don’t cost a lot of money. From renting via Redox or Blockbuster, joining a movie membership club like Netflix, or streaming shows and movies on Hulu or Amazon, there are lots of ways to save on entertainment costs.
While these options sometimes allow for cheaper date nights and family time, there’s nothing quite the same as actually visiting the theater on occasion, especially for those new releases you want to see on the big screen.
In the interest of supporting local theaters (although it’s perfectly fine to frequent chain theaters), you may view your ticket and concession prices as investment in your community and even history.
You don’t have to deprive yourself of these experiences once in a while, even if you’re on an entertainment budget. The key is making the most of your money and your time.
Here are a few ways to save money on movies while enjoying the big screen.
1. Don’t purchase tickets online.
Many people think they’re smart by booking tickets online and avoiding lines while guaranteeing their seats for a popular new release.
There’s a catch with this though, which is that many online ticket vendors charge a processing fee (it’s only fair — they’re a business, too!). It’s much cheaper to plan to arrive at the theater early so you can secure your tickets, get in line right away, and avoid these extra fees.
2. Don’t pay more for 3D or IMAX.
Movie producers have caught on to the public’s fascination with 3D and special effects, and often convert 2D movies into 3D after they’re produced, in an effort to earn more money.
The truth is that you really won’t be wowed by a converted movie as much as a movie originally created for 3D. So save yourself as much as $7 more per ticket on 3D unless, you’re sure it’s worth it.
Read reviews online before paying the extra money to see a movie in 3D. The same goes for digital formatting. If it’s a not a movie with special effects, don’t bother.
3. Bring and buy snacks to share.
Theater staff know and expect that people will sneak in their own food. You may see this as your shrewd way of saving a few dollars, but it’s important to remember that concession income supports the bulk of theaters’ running expenses.
Ticket prices are competitive and represent little profit once the film producers’ dues are paid. You can still support a local theater and practice frugality by sharing drinks and concessions you purchase. In addition, eating before you head to the movies will also ease your need to buy expensive junk food.
4. Join a rewards club.
You might not think theater reward cards and clubs are worth it, but a general guideline is that if you watch at least three movies at a particular theater in a year, you should probably join the rewards club.
Depending on the brand, you’ll receive rebates for dollars spent, free online booking, concession perks, and other rewards that will more than pay for any sign-up fee. Although, generally speaking, most theater rewards programs are free.
5. Don’t bring small children.
Having to duck out for bathroom breaks, diaper changes, and misbehavior can mean missing major parts of a movie if you take young children with you. This isn’t a problem at home where you can press pause, but the theater staff isn’t going to wait for you.
Pay the fee for a sitter so you can truly enjoy the movie, or take them to a cheaper matinee (readily available for kid-friendly flicks) for a show you don’t mind seeing only parts of.
The key to enjoying the theater while on an entertainment budget is to use both your time and money wisely. Theaters are not out of the question, but they present unique opportunities to practice your ability to live frugally and maximize your entertainment value.
How do you save money on movies at the theater? What’s another way to indulge in going to the movies without spending too much?