“When I was a kid, I could see a movie AND get popcorn for a quarter.”
Now, I don’t know if that’s entirely true, but my dad was a kid in the ’50s. And I heard this refrain every freakin’ time we went to the theater. I think ticket prices were in the $3 range by then, the ’80s. He would be rolling over in his grave if he knew that it costs over $10 on a Friday night for a single ticket. And that taking the whole family to the movies with a trip to the concession stand can come to over $100! (I have 5 kids.) The days of piling the family into the station wagon for a night at the drive in at under $10 is long gone.
However, that family trip to the theater doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up in my extensive “research”.
1. Never ever under any circumstances buy candy at the concession stand! You are looking at $4-5 for a single box. That exact same box can be purchased for $1 at Target, or under $2 at the grocery store.
2. Instead of soda, bring a bottle of water. Let’s face it, if you’re eating candy you really don’t need the extra sugar in soda (that’s pop if you live on the East Coast or Midwest. I don’t know what y’all call it down South ways!) Avoid buying water at the theater, it can cost as much as the soda. If you forget your bottle, you can ask for a cup of water at the concession stand. They are required to provide it no charge. It will come in a fairly small cup with no lid, but hey it’s free. Whadda ya expect?
3. If you MUST have a soda, grab a bottle at the grocery store on your way. Then you can get your favorite brand instead of being stuck with Diet Pepsi when you prefer Coke Zero (or vice versa.) A large cup of soda at the theater can cost upwards of $5! That same soda at the store is usually around $1.50 a bottle. I can also buy that exact same bottle at the Dollar Tree (for $1, though I think that goes without saying!) Hint if you have a Dollar Tree or other $ store, candy can be purchased there too. That’s where I stock up on my Junior Mints and Good ‘n Plentys!
4. Popcorn is one that it’s nearly impossible to sneak in (even my purse isn’t that big!) However, if you’re getting in and out of the concession stand for $5-6 for two or more people, that’s not too shabby! If you’re taking your kids, here’s the tip. Buy the big refillable bucket. Pick up enough of those cardboard trays they provide to hold the drinks and goodies for every child. When you get them all situated in their seats, divide out the popcorn as evenly as possible between all the trays completely emptying the bucket. Then go get that refill before the movie even starts! You’ll be able to refill trays as needed throughout the movie. Two large buckets of popcorn for $5-6 dollars can keep a whole army of kids happily munching for 90 minutes. This is a theory I’ve tested multiple times!
5. Whenever possible, attend during the matinee hours. Movies are considerably cheaper during daytime hours. Hitting the theater at 7 pm on a Friday night is the MOST expensive time you can go. And it’s usually the busiest. Avoid the crowds AND save a little cash. My theaters’ matinee times are Sunday through Thursday any movie starting before 6 pm; Saturday and Sunday before 2pm. Now there’s an extra bonus in that the first showing of each movie every day is even cheaper by about $.50. I try to hit that one, especially if I’m taking the kids.
6. Some theater chains have a bargain night during the week, often a Tuesday. That’s because these are typically their lowest attendance nights. It costs just as much to run the movie in an empty theater as a full one, so they do this to get as many people in as possible. Theaters make most of their money at the concession stand anyway. They also know that if people are saving money on tickets, they are even more likely to spend it on snacks. The ticket prices are usually on par with the matinee rates. Our theater doesn’t (bummer!) but most places I’ve lived do. Check with your theater!
7. Do a little internet surfing to see if you can find discount tickets. AMC is one that often has discounts on tickets and concessions. Find your local theater’s parent company and follow their Facebook fan page and Twitter feed. They’ll often offer coupons, tips and extras!
8. Many cities have Dollar or Discount theaters. They usually are showing movies that have been out for a while but haven’t gone to DVD just yet. Right now movies like Iron Man 2 and Letters to Juliet are playing at them. The average ticket price is between $1-2 depending on your area of the country. If you don’t mind waiting a month or two to see the latest blockbuster, but still want the big screen theater experience then this is the place for you. Keep in mind that ticket prices are lower, but concession stand prices are exactly the same!! So if you’re not careful, you could end up shelling out just as much as on opening night.
9. People always ask me how I get into all those free sneak peeks! Not only do I get to see movies BEFORE they come out, but I do it for FREE! I’m going to share my secret with you: GOFOBO. Just register (it’s free) and then hit the screenings tab at the top. Enter in your zip code where asked and hit the search button. You can search in a radius from .5 to 100 miles, depending on how far you’re willing to go for those free tix. Often the movies will require a RSVP CODE. That’s where Google comes in. I enter RSVP CODE the name of the movie and the city it’s being shown into the search bar. Sometimes I get lucky and I can find a website that has that information (I have the best luck at the Free Movie Codes blog.) You can get between 2-4 passes, depending on what’s being offered. Now I’ve cheated just a bit, since typically its only 2 passes and I usually need three. I have more than one email address and so I’ve registered both of them. When they only offer two tix per email addy, I log in under each of them and can score 4 tix that way. I know, it’s a bit sneaky. But I have two teenage boys, how could I pick which one would go to see Dinner for Schmucks with me?!
So that Dinner for Schmucks sneak peak that I just saw two days BEFORE opening night? Cost me zero dollars at the theater! We picked up our own candy and sodas at the Dollar Tree on our way (we each got one box of candy and one bottle of soda, with tax it came to under $7.) If I’d taken those same two boys to see it opening night at the 7pm showing, it would have cost $32.25 for tix and $30 for the same soda and candy. Grand total=$62.25. I saved $55.25 AND got bragging rights! Bonus: my teenagers thinking I’m the coolest mom ever=Priceless!
Now get out there and see those Summer Blockbusters without breaking the bank!
You can read more of Tiffany’s writing at Mommy in Real Life.