Going to the movies is one of my favorite past-times – since December I’ve seen four movies on the big screen: The Princess and the Frog, It’s Complicated, Avatar, and Sherlock Holmes.
I love the big screen, the great sound, and the cushy seats. But prices for movies haven’t been so comfortable for consumers. In 2009, the average cost of a movie ticket is $7.50, according to the National Association of Theater Owners. Southern California, where I live, is an area with one of the highest costs of movie tickets. Tickets now cost $10-$13 for evenings and $8-$10 for matinees.
I’m not going to give up going to movies, but I do take a few steps to make sure that I’m saving where I can, and that I am enjoying my movie experience to the fullest.
Ways to Spend Less at the Movies
1. Take advantage of Costco movie packs.
Costco movie tickets are the secret weapon in my fight against runaway prices. Costco sells tickets to AMC and Regal Entertainment (which includes Edwards theaters) tickets for $15 a pair, or $7.50 per ticket. These tickets are unrestricted and can be used for any feature film, although you must pay a surcharge if you want to watch a 3-D movie or if you are in Manhattan. These $7.50 tickets represent the best value I’ve found.
My boyfriend and I use these tickets 95% of the time. They can save up to 25%-30% off a couple’s movie outing. [FFB: Many employers offer up similar types of programs. Check with your HR Dept.]
2. Go to second-run or discount theaters.
These theaters are older and play movies that have been out in theaters a few months before. That is how I caught a showing of Sex and the City for $1 when I was in Hawaii. You might not want to catch an action-intense flick such as Ironman 2 in a second-run theater, but a comedy may be perfectly enjoyable in such a setting, and you’d be getting your laughs for less. A few discount theaters where I live cost $3 to $6 per ticket, a 50%-70% discount over multiplex pricing.
3. Refrain from buying at the concession stands.
Movie theaters make a large percentage of their profits from popcorn, nachos, candies, and soft drinks. At a theater near my apartment, large popcorn runs $7. A large drink is $6 to $8. Pretzels are almost $5 each. You can easily spend more on snacks than you do on the movie tickets.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve purchased something from a movie theater concession stand. Usually I’ll bring in a bottle of water in case I get thirsty, and I’ll bring in some dried fruit to snack on during movies – it’s healthier for my health and for my wallet.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for a ticket voucher.
Once we bought tickets to a movie only to find that the only seats we can find were in the very very front where we’d have to strain our necks just to catch a glimpse of the screen. We asked for voucher tickets at the concierge desk and decided to come back another day. I’ve found that theater employees are very responsive to reasonable requests.
If the movie is too full, the screen or sound system had issues, or a baby is crying inside the theater, etc., don’t be afraid to leave and ask for vouchers to come back another day.
Do you have any other tips to help save at the movie theater?
Author bio: WellHeeled is a twentysomething whose exposure to personal finance begun at an young age, when Mom would show her the mortgage amortization schedule for the family home. Her perfect Sunday would be a day filled with brunch and an afternoon movie date. She has been writing about the intersection of life and money on Well Heeled Blog for 3+ years. You can subscribe via her RSS feed.