13 Easy Ways to Save Big Bucks at the Movies

Dean Drobot / Shutterstock.com

Planning to go to the movies? Dig deep into that wallet: The average price of a movie ticket has been hovering around $9 for the past few years, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners.

Sometimes, movie tickets are even pricier due to surcharges for premium formats like 3-D. But even if you’re sticking to the first matinee of the day, which is often discounted, your entertainment budget is feeling the pinch.

The following frugal hacks will help you stretch those entertainment bucks. Why pay $9 when you can pay a fraction of that amount — or maybe even nothing at all?

1. Skip those premium formats

Master1305 / Shutterstock.com

Sure, it can be fun to see a superhero blockbuster on a five-story-tall screen or in 3-D. But not every film is better that way.

Before you spring for the pricey ticket, check with a reviewer you trust. Some film scribes will note whether 3-D brought any value to a movie. Or ask your friends if seeing a particular movie in 3-D was worth the extra money.

Also check movie times and corresponding formats carefully. I once heard a woman in a ticket line say, “Oh, this is an XD show.” Her companion sighed and said, “Well, we’re here, so go ahead and pay it.” It was an extra $3.50 per ticket.

Don’t let that happen to you. Pay attention when you choose your show time.

2. See films for free — and before your friends do

movie preview
Gustavo Frazao / Shutterstock.com

Advance movie screenings are offered in many cities. Often unannounced to the general public, they’re available to those in the know.

How do you become one of the frugal cognoscenti? One way is to sign up at websites like Wild About Movies, AdvanceScreenings.com and Gofobo.

3. Join a rewards website

Happy woman at computer.
carballo / Shutterstock.com

Rewards sites like Swagbucks enable you to earn rewards points for doing activities such as searching the internet, shopping online and playing games.

Once you’ve got enough points, you can redeem them for gift cards, including gift cards to movie theater chains like AMC and Regal.

Sure, earning points takes time. But, again, you get free movie tickets!

4. Use a rewards credit card

Micolas / Shutterstock.com

Got a rewards credit card? If not, check out Money Talks News’ credit card search tool.

Once you’ve got a rewards card, use it to buy movie tickets — among plenty of other things. Technically, it won’t make them any cheaper. But earning cash back is effectively like scoring a discount.

Remember: Never, ever charge more on a credit card than you can pay off at the end of the billing cycle. Otherwise, you’ll incur interest charges that will negate your cash back.

5. Join a loyalty program

Billion Photos / Shutterstock.com

If you haven’t joined the rewards programs of the theaters you frequent, you’re leaving money on the ticket counter.

Just about every major chain has a loyalty card, whether plastic or virtual, for you to swipe each time you hit the flicks. Eventually, you’ll amass sufficient points for a freebie or discount.

6. Ask about discounts

Tyler Olson / Shutterstock.com

Check local chains for pay-one-price days or other specials. Ask about military, student and senior discounts, too.

If you’re a member of AARP, you’re eligible for discounts at Regal Cinemas.

7. Wait awhile

movie theater
Dean Drobot / Shutterstock.com

Sometimes a movie is still pulling in viewers, but the theater needs to make room for new blockbusters. That’s when it gets sent to a “second-run,” or discounted, theater.

You can save some real money by attending movies in these theaters. In my city, the second-run theater costs $3.75 for all shows.

True, some of these theaters aren’t the fanciest, meaning no cushy reclining seats or higher-end concessions. But the price is right.

8. Pay with a discounted gift card

Stack of gift cards.
Iryna Tiumentseva / Shutterstock.com

I never pay full price for the movies, in part because I always hit the first show of the day or go on pay-one-price Tuesday.

But even on these cheaper days, I pay less than retail, because I pay with a discounted gift card.

You can buy gift cards for less than their face value through marketplaces such as Cardpool.com and Raise.com. I’ve seen cards discounted as deeply as 30 percent.

A comparison website called Gift Card Granny will tell you which of these marketplaces is selling a certain movie theater chain’s gift cards for the lowest price at any given time. So, always visit Gift Card Granny before buying a discounted gift card.

Alternatively, you can buy discounted movie theater gift cards at warehouse chains like Sam’s Club.

9. Watch for special offers

Franck Boston / Shutterstock.com

Remember those commercials that said, “Look for specially marked packages”? Definitely look for those!

In recent years I’ve gotten free movie tickets from Kellogg’s and M&M/Mars. Since I bought their products on sale and used store coupons, the deals were pretty sweet, so to speak.

For example, spending $6 on four 9.9-ounce bags of M&Ms got me a free ticket — good for up to $12 — as well as the candies to treat my great-nephews. A woman at my city’s recycling center told me she harvested a bunch of those specially marked Kellogg’s cereal boxes from the mixed-paper bin.

10. Take the whole family

Goncharov_Artem / Shutterstock.com

A handful of theater chains nationwide host second-run children’s film screenings every summer. Admission is either free or nearly free — anywhere from 50 cents to $2.

The movies are generally those released in the previous year. If you missed the initial run, here’s your chance to catch up at a very nice price.

11. Reconsider popcorn

Asier Romero / Shutterstock.com

Blasphemy! Or maybe not.

Some people think it’s not a movie without snacks. If that’s you, save money by using some of the same methods mentioned previously. For example, pay with a gift card you got for free, a discounted gift card or a rewards credit card.

Or, consider bringing your own treats or skipping the snacks. Just be discreet if you’re planning to sneak in snacks. Theaters have the right to ban outside food, and to kick you out if you violate that ban.

12. Ask and ye might receive

Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

When someone asks what you want for Christmas or for your birthday, don’t say, “Oh, I don’t know, whatever you want would be fine.”

Instead, say this: “You know what would be great? A movie theater gift card. I’d definitely use it. ‘Experiences, not stuff,’ right? Thank you for asking.”

These cards are convenient to buy since, like other gift cards, they’re available at supermarkets and drugstores and even at office-supply, home-improvement and convenience stores.

That counts as a win-win: The giver doesn’t have to go out of his or her way and knows in advance that the recipient will be delighted.

13. Propose a trade

Handshake
Mongkol Foto / Shutterstock.com

Say you’ve got more time than disposable income right now and you really, really want to go to the movies. Trade, already.

Somewhere, somebody wants what you have to offer. Put it out on social media that you’re in the market for movie gift cards. Maybe someone who has one would love to swap for something in your skill set.

The skills don’t even have to be that major.

Suggest that your sister give you that $25 Fandango certificate she got for her birthday in exchange for watching her kids next Friday night. Or maybe the co-worker who received a $50 Regal gift card at Christmas will trade it for your willingness to pick up her mail and feed the cat when she goes away for the weekend.

What’s your favorite movie-viewing hack? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
9 Houseplants That Remove Toxins From Your Indoor Air
9 Houseplants That Remove Toxins From Your Indoor Air

These plants may also do everything from reduce the amount of dust in your home to improve your productivity.

14 Things We Buy and Then Almost Never Use
14 Things We Buy and Then Almost Never Use

Save your money. These items seem alluring but they often end up as coat racks and dust magnets.

5 Common Medical Expenses That Medicare Won’t Pay For
5 Common Medical Expenses That Medicare Won’t Pay For

Don’t let these health care costs catch you off guard in retirement.

21 Purchases You Should Never Skimp On
21 Purchases You Should Never Skimp On

With some items, it makes sense to pay a little more rather than hopping on the lowest price.

19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret
19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret

Think twice before buying these things.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?
Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?

The rules are complicated when it comes to eligibility for survivors benefits.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked
11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked

Does your retirement budget account for all of these costs?

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.