As someone with a very small entertainment budget, I’m a big promoter of cheap or free forms of entertainment. It’s a must for me because I don’t have a lot of extra money to spare right now and frankly, who does in this economy? The following examples are of things I’ve done to keep within my entertainment budget and as you will see it’s not at all about deprivation. It’s about playing it smart and making your wallet happy.
- Morning Movies – It’s not about staying away from the theater; it’s about when you go to the theater. Movies can be budget friendly. Morning movies at most movie theaters are more than half as cheap as going at night. A child ticket and an adult ticket usually cost the same in the mornings too. Why spend $20 on a pair of tickets when you can get into the show for only $8? You might live in an area though, where the difference between normal times and matinee times is only a dollar or two, still savings is savings. And as an added bonus, there’s usually more available seating at early showings compared to other times.
- Loyalty Programs – You should belong to the loyalty program at every theater in town and carry the cards in your wallet at all times. There was a Regal Cinemas in my college town but not one in my hometown and stupidly, I took it out of my wallet where I promptly forgot all about it. Recently, I took a trip and brought all of my movie theater loyalty cards but the Regal Cinemas and guess what was there? Regal Cinemas. It was also the day for free popcorn if you present your loyalty card. So not only did I miss out on gaining points toward concession discounts and free tickets, but I also missed out on free popcorn. I could have kicked myself.
- Sneak Concessions into the Theater – Yeah, it’s a little ridiculous, but have you seen the prices at the concession stand? Date night could easily cost you $40 alone when it comes to popcorn, candy and drinks. Girls have it easier when it comes to sneaking in concessions because we carry purses, but guys if your pants have big pockets you can still bring in a soda can or bag of candy. Use your concession discounts from the loyalty program to buy the popcorn. I know of people who have brought pre-popped microwaved popcorn with them to the theaters, but this is not something I have done or plan to do ever. I’m a purist. I like my theater popcorn to be hot, buttery, and extra salty.
- Summer Kid Films – During the summer there are free or $1 showings of previously released kid films. Not all titles will be for you, and you will have to weigh the pleasure of getting into the movie for so cheap versus the amount of kids at the theater, which could drive you nuts. Of course, if you’re bringing your own kids you won’t care. Be on the lookout also for themed movie showing programs on much older films. Some theaters host these during the summer too and offer seating for them for much less too.
- Listen to the Radio – You can win free movie tickets by listening to local radio stations. I’ve yet to win any myself, but plenty of other people are scoring gift cards. Why not you? You won’t win if you don’t call the station. [Editor’s Note: I’ve called a radio once to win tickets (though concert tickets) and won. I’ve since retired happy to see Pearl Jam in their heyday.]
- Library – Why belong to Netflix or Blockbuster when you can check out movies for free at the library? Sure they have fewer copies and your time on the wait list is longer and you can’t keep the movie out indefinitely before remembering to send it back in, but you get what you pay for and it’s a damn good deal since it’s a free service. It also helps your library out by showing good circulation. It’s a win-win as far as I’m concerned.
- Go to a Friend’s House – Want to watch movies on the cheap? Go to your friend’s house and watch some of their movies. Your collections might have a lot of overlap but I bet you can find something you both want to watch.
- Host Movie Night at Your House – On the reverse, you can host movie night yourself and invite your friends over to watch. Tell them you’ll supply the popcorn and drinks if they get the candy. You can do a marathon of Harry Potter or Twilight or Lord of the Rings or Star Wars or your favorite TV show. You’re only limited by what you have and what you can get from the library.
- Watch Your Premium Channels – If you’re already paying for HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz, or any other movie channel network, you should be watching them. If you can’t find anything to watch on currently check their On Demand version of their channels. Select and start your movie on your own time and watch as your own pace. Is a phone call coming in? Hit pause. Have to run to the bathroom, but don’t want to miss the good part? Pause again.
- Go to the Drive In – As Lazy Man has pointed out previously you can save money at drive-in movies
These 10 tips only scratch the surface of saving money, but combine them and you’ll find that your pockets instead of feeling lighter are actually a little fuller. Well… at least until you hit another budget buster, but it won’t be for movies!
Great ideas! My fiance and I have definitely done the “matinee” movies and brought our own snacks. We would highly recommend that as an option for folks looking to save cash while still enjoying those “have to see it now” current release movies!
However, one option you left off is a Netflix subscription. We’ve signed up for the smallest account and taken advantage of the huge library of movies available for “instant” streaming. Since doing so, we’ve cut our movie expenditures significantly.
Big - D says
Movie prices are set via zip code by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). They determine how much money a ticket costs (Matinee, Kids/Sr. Citizen, Full Priced adult, that kids are 11 and under) for each of the 3 classifications for runs of a movie, what % the movie studio gets of what movie ticket prices (based on weeks in the theater, 95% the first week, 80% the second week, 50% third, and 15% forth), and how long a movie is considered “first run”/”second run”/”final run”, etc. They do not control the times of the matinees, prices on concessions (because this is how movie theaters make money the first few weeks), theater style seating, etc.
Here are a few more suggestions for you:
1) Watch movies in a cheaper zip code. I live where a movie theater is in town, and on the edge of town. Because they are different zip codes, the one on the edge of town is cheaper (they also have matinee pricing until 6:00pm). To drive an extra 5 miles, I get tickets $2 cheaper.
2) Watch movies second run or in a dollar theater. Yes you have to wait 3 months for them to get to “final run” state, but if you can find a cheap theater, go there.
One final comment. I go to matinees a lot (well more in the past, but I still go). I noticed that if you go to the 12:00 matinee on Sunday or Saturday it is almost empty. So it is cheaper, less noise, and it is the same movie.
kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says
“… and a junkie for USA TV shows.”
I don’t watch much TV (esp during baseball season), but I do like USA’s lineup. I’m a big fan of Monk (sad to see it die) and Psych’s pretty good, too. They seem to have created an entire lineup of shows with actual plots.
@Rob – I left out Netflix because it’s not something that I do. I prefer the library. It’s not instant streaming, but it is free. :)
@Big-D – That’s very interesting! I did not know that’s how the prices were setup. Thanks for filling me in; it certainly explains why the theater closest to us has the highest prices. We used to have a $ theater in the area but they shut down a few years ago. It’s too bad because I used to love going there. They had cheap concessions too.
@kosmo – I love Psych, Burn Notice, Covert Affairs, and White Collar. I’ve caught an episode or two of Monk but never quite got into it. I’m also a big fan of Castle, Glee, and Leverage but they are on other networks. lol :)
Kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says
My wife is a huge fan of Castle. This I find very strange. Why? Because I am a fiction writer, and I feel that my best work is my crime fiction (sort of like Castle) … yet my wife has no interest in it (and no interest in the crime fiction genre in general).
Lazy Man says
So you are that person who watches Burn Notice. I was wondering who that was.
@Kosmo – That is pretty funny. Have you said anything to her?
@Lazy Man – Yup, I am. :D Star Gate Universe too, which I forgot to mention. Love the Star Gate series. Been a buff of that world since the movie first came out.
I thought of a bonus tip.
#11 – Don’t see 3D movies. Go instead to the 2D showing and save the extra dollars. Very few movies are as eloquent as Avatar when it comes to 3D action.
Multiple Egg Baskets says
I actually buy selected cereal when they have free movie passes or concession stand offers. POST seems to be a good manufacturer for this to happen in the fall each year. I usually get Shreddies. mmmmm….shreddies.