A Frugal Film Fan’s Guide to Saving at the Cinema

Blog | April 28th, 2014

A Frugal Film Fan’s Guide to Saving at the Cinema

Going to the movie theater isn’t what it used to be. Sure,
technological advancements like IMAX and 3-D are exciting features for
moviegoers, but gone are the days of nickelodeons and drive-in theaters that
allow you to bring in your own food. Nowadays, it could cost as much as $60 for
a family of four to go to see a movie together. More, if you want to see the
movie in 3-D or visit the concessions stand for popcorn and drinks on your way

This can be disheartening to hear if you’re an ardent
movie-lover, but luckily, there are several ways to save at the cinema:

Matinee Showings

There are quite a few benefits to going to the movies before
5 p.m. For one, you don’t have to deal with as many crowds. Many kids are at
school until at least 3 p.m. and many parents work the usual 9-5 shift, which
equates to light traffic for movie theaters. To bring in more customers,
theaters tend to offer generous discounts for their matinee showings, usually a
couple dollars off the regular ticket price or as much as 50 percent off
regular prices. If you and your significant other or friends are free during
matinee hours, be sure to take advantage of these ticket discounts.

Bargain Days

In addition to daily discounts, many theaters offer weekly
discounts on days where audience attendance is low (usually on Sundays and
Tuesdays). It may not be your typical Saturday night movie date, but going on
off days is another way to save on ticket prices. Some theaters charge as little
as $4 or $5 on bargain days.

Special Discounts

If your schedule doesn’t allow for early movie times or
bargain-day movie going, then you might still have a chance at scoring some
sweet discounts. If you’re over 65 (55 for some theaters), you may qualify for
a senior discount. Other discounts offered at theaters include those for
military members and students.

Theater Loyalty Card

If your local theater has a loyalty program and you go there
on a regular basis, signing up for the club may help you save several dollars
per year on movies. Membership is almost always free and once you sign up, you
can start earning points towards free stuff like tickets or popcorn. Some
programs offer immediate discounts for new members, such as 50% off your next
popcorn purchase.

Snack Bar Coupons

Speaking of popcorn, the most frugal option would be to
forgo any food or drink purchases at the theater (most of that stuff is
overpriced) but if you like having something to munch on while watching a
movie, there are ways around paying full price. For starters, check your local
newspaper or websites like SumoCoupon for any coupons. Since you’re going to buy movie tickets regardless, many
theaters would rather offer discounts on concession stand items instead. Some
theaters offer occasional specials on popcorn buckets or kids’ meals, such as
buy one, get one 50% off or free. These types of discounts vary by theater; see
what your local movie theater offers and as an alternative you could always try
bringing in your own food from home. 

Dollar Theaters

Last but not least, going to the local dollar theater is a
great way to cut back on movie expenses. Films shown here have usually been in
other theaters for several weeks now, but if you don’t mind waiting to see the
latest and greatest blockbusters, then simply wait for them to come out in the
discounted theater and pay $3 or less for a movie ticket instead of $10+. 

Kelly Kehoe is a staff writer for Money Street Smart and works with, a site full coupons and coupon codes.