Cinematic Savings: How to Spend Less at the Movies

Whether you’re looking for a fun popcorn flick or you’re anticipating the next Academy Award-winning film, going to the movies is always a good time. Sometimes, however, the scariest thing at the theater isn’t on the screen—it’s on the receipt. The National Association of Theatre Owners reports that the average ticket price in 2017 was $8.97. That means a family of four will spend over $45 just for the show. If you add popcorn, drinks and candy, the total is closer to $75. But it doesn’t have to cost that much. Here are some ways to save.

Go early

Matinee pricing is usually cheaper than regular, so plan on a showing earlier in the day. Some theaters offer additional discounts for the first showing of the day, or if you on certain weekdays. And when you use your Visa® from America First, you can get matinee pricing every Monday night!

Go late

Despite what trailers tell you, it’s not necessary to see a movie on opening weekend. In fact, if you have the patience to wait—and the wisdom to avoid online spoilers—you can cut expenses by choosing a late-run showing or going to the dollar theaters. These establishments offer cheaper tickets for nearly the same moviegoing experience.

Avoid unnecessary fees

Do you really need to see that animated feature in 3D? Will IMAX enhance a romantic comedy? You’ll pay a premium for upgrades, but few are truly worth it. Stick to regular showings for the most part and buy your tickets box office to avoid online convenience fees.

Skip the concessions

The popcorn industry has done a great job of making you feel like their crunchy, buttery, salty treat is a must-have during any film. However, if you eat a good meal before going to the movies, you’ll be less tempted to get snacks and drinks, which is where most theater profits are made. If you can’t resist, split the cost with a group.

Discover discounts

Check to see if a nearby theater offers price breaks for students, seniors, AAA members, or those serving in the military. Warehouse outlets like Sam’s Club or Costco also sell tickets to local theaters at reduced prices. And if you download their apps, many national theater chains have ways you can earn discounts on movies and concessions.

Find freebies

Look for free screenings in your area. During the summer, for example, many communities will show films at local schools or libraries. You can also find out about advance events—when studios invite you to see a movie before the public to generate buzz. These are usually free, but they’re often overbooked and seating is not guaranteed. However, if you don’t get in, you can always go home and stream a favorite from the comfort of your couch.