How to Save Money At the Movies: A Personal Story and a Lesson Learned

Monday night my husband and I did something we’ve never done: we took our three kids to the movies on a whim. Yes, on a school night.

It was a spur-of-the-moment thing and totally my idea. “Let’s try something different,” I’d suggested to my husband and then I said:“Let’s take the kids to see The Avengers.”

I knew my husband and my 12-year-old son had been waiting for a long time to see the movie, so it wasn’t like I had to twist their arms. Even my daughters – age 14 and 6 – were more than happy to get out of the house for a weekday movie night out.

I think all three kids were also pretty surprised because, in our household, we don’t even let our children watch TV during the week – let alone go see movies.

But once homework was all done, we headed out for a 6 pm show at a local AMC movie theater, the kind that has those fancy, big seats and a dine-in theater option.

We all loved The Avengers, and it was such a blast doing something out of our normal routine. And needless to say, not having to cook and clean up after a hard day of work was a nice way to end the evening.

But the bill! Yikes!

We knew it would be a splurge. But later, it really dawned on my husband and I exactly how expensive it is to enjoy a simple pleasure like eating out and seeing a movie.

For our family of five, we wound up spending $144. In my book, that amounts to 144 reasons why dine-in theaters probably won’t become a routine thing for us.

But having dropped that much cash also made me thrilled to see a recent list of suggestions from consumer and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch.

She’s put together a list of 11 ways to save money at the movies. Here they are:

1. Join AAA
The automobile club offers $8 tickets to Regal, United Artists and Edwards movie theaters. The catch is that you have to go to one of their offices to buy them.

2. Buy Movie Packs
This is the way to go for families. You can buy a four-pack of tickets from Costco, good for a variety of theatres, for just $34.99 and a 10-pack for $82.99. There’s no expiration date and you can use the tickets seven days a week. BulkTix.com also saves you an average of $2 to $3 off a ticket’s face value for seven different chains.

3. Attend Second-Run Theatres
There are several chains that show movies a bit past their prime. If you can wait to see the latest iteration of a Marvel comic, you’ll pay anywhere from $3 to $6 for the same movie.

4. Ask for Senior Rates
If you’re 60 or over, you’ll get a discount from select locations of AMC Theatres. And Cinemark offers Seniors Day every Monday at some locations for seniors 62 and older. Ultimately, it helps to ask the cashier or one of the theatre managers about available discounts for seniors. Just be prepared to show your ID.

5. Skip the Concession Stand
Eat before you head out to the movies so you won’t be tempted by the many treats on offer. Granted this is how theaters make their money, but it’s also how you double the cost of your ticket.

6. Use Discount Gift Cards
Save 10 to 30 percent by purchasing discount movie theater gift cards from such sites as GiftCardGranny. In addition to saving instantly on ticket prices, you can cut the cost of concessions if the smell of popcorn is too tempting to overcome.

7. Swipe Your Plastic
Credit card companies and banks have increased their reward perks over the last few years and some of those include free passes to the theater. Visa Signature offers their credit card holders two-for-one movie tickets via Fandango on Fridays. Deutsche Bank Debit Card users can get one free pass for every one ticket purchased through BookMyShow.com. Ask your credit card or bank about such reward perks and take advantage of the discount.

8. Be Loyal
Kerasotes Theaters has the FiveBuckClub, which sends weekly emails with a list of movies members can see for $5. AMC Theatres offers points toward discounts, concession upgrades and more if you join their Stubs Rewards Program. Check with your local theatres to see if they provide similar deals for loyal customers.

9. Daily Deal It
Though daily deals for restaurants and spa services overwhelm your inbox, you have good reason to search through the clutter. Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial have featured movie theater savings of up to 50 percent, and will likely offer similar promotions this summer. The vouchers typically expire within a couple months so make note of the date and use them up before then.

10. Early-Bird Deals
Matinees can save you anywhere from 30 to 50 percent off prime-time ticket prices, leaving more money in your wallet for warm summer evenings.

11. Say Something
Have you ever watched a movie where the sound system was off enough to drive you crazy? Perhaps you ended up surrounded by a swarm of teenagers who shouted at the screen throughout the film. Don’t be afraid to ask for a voucher or your money back if you have a bad experience. You may be surprised how often theaters will accommodate a polite request.

With a slew of Hollywood blockbusters and independent films all about to debut this summer, these tips can definitely save you big bucks if you like to visit movie theaters.

And based on my personal movie-going experience this week, I could have benefited from using a few of Woroch’s tips as well!

Woroch’s advice is a reminder to us – myself included – that even when we choose to splurge, you can still be smart about it and keep your budget intact.

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