The Frugal Guide To Going To The Movies

The Frugal Guide To Going To The Movies

Going to the movies is an activity I love for many reasons. Since most of my life revolves around food, just ask my wife, there is the popcorn, nachos, Sno-Caps, Sour Patch Kids….Okay, I’ll stop with the food, but there is also the opportunity to turn off your mind and just let the movie take you away into its storyline. Movies are a great American pastime, and I don’t mean to discount other countries because they enjoy movies just as much, just with different accents (I kid, it’s all in fun).

The one thing I find very annoying about going to the movies is the fact that I usually need to take out a small personal loan in order to go to one. Especially if I am taking my family, and if they want to bring a friend I may as well go sell some plasma for their ticket and popcorn. The National Association of Theater Owners reports that the average movie ticket price during the first four months of 2018 is 4% higher at $9.16 versus the same quarter last year at $8.84. Granted, when we see a surge in ticket prices, it is normally due to the release of some pretty huge blockbuster titles. We had Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the Jumanji re-boot, Black Panther, and the Avengers:Infinity War movies all hit since December.

Don’t even get me started on the price of the food at the concessions. You would think I am getting five-star dining for the prices I am paying by the time I get out of there. Granted, the selection of food is getting much better these days with most theaters offering items like hamburgers, chicken tenders, and more hearty combo platters, but when you drop about $100 for a family of four before you even sit your butts in the seats it is a little salty.

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These numbers are from 2014, but to show you how much theaters are making off of the concessions, an $8.15 large bucket of popcorn was estimated to cost 90 cents for the raw goods to make it. A $6.31 large soda was estimated to cost 40 cents for the raw goods to make it, if you add the cup, straw and lid, probably around 51 cents. A bag of M&Ms from a movie theater in 2014, $4.25. A bag of M&Ms at Wal-Mart, $2.08.


Seeing that going to the movies is a luxury, and the theaters very rarely advertise any kind of sales or discounts, you would think you are at their mercy. That is partially true, but there are ways that you can soften the blow to your wallet and here are a few of them.

1. Go in the Afternoon
Tickets for matinée, or early bird showings, are usually less expensive. You could save as much as $10 a ticket by going to showings during off times. Theaters want to fill their seats and they know that they are not going to sell as many tickets during normal work or school hours. Take advantage of this if you can.

2. Look at Your Membership Cards
Dig through your wallet and get out all of those membership cards that could possibly save you some money. We know that if you are a student, member of the military, or a senior citizen you can get a discount, but there are other organizations that may be able to help you relax for two hours. Your car insurance carrier could save you some money and AAA almost always gets you nice percentage discount at many theaters.

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Wholesale club memberships such as Costco or Sam’s Club can often save you money by purchasing your movie tickets in the store. Just go to the customer service desk and ask them if they offer discount tickets.

3. Subscribe To Your Movies
If you are a real movie buff and see a lot of movies, you may benefit from a monthly service such as MoviePass. This service, in particular, allows you to see a movie every 24 hours for a flat monthly fee of between $30-$49, even though I did hear they were going to slash that to three movies per month.

4. Skip The Service Fees
I know we are in a digital age and we love doing everything online, but buy your tickets at the box office and skip the online service fees. You will save $1-$2 per ticket every time you buy tickets. That will add up over time, plus you get to talk to another human being.

5. Stay 2-D
I understand that the latest blockbuster film is going to look and feel so much better in Imax and 3-D, but your wallet and bank account isn’t going to look good at all after taking a family of four to the theater afterwards. Going to a 3-D movie instead of a 2-D movie will add as much as $5 to the price of a ticket.

6. Never Go Hungry
I will never tell you to sneak food into a movie theater (sneak food into a movie theater), so make sure you eat before you go. Never go to the movies when you are hungry. You will not be able to resist the temptation of the buttered popcorn, soda, licorice, mmmmmmm, oh sorry I got lost there for a second. The markup on the food at movie theaters is outrageous and will definitely derail your finances if you go on an empty stomach.

Coasting to FI

So, to wrap this blockbuster of a post up, you don’t have to break the bank to go to the movies.  There are definitely ways to save a few dollars here and there.  Check them out for yourself and see what works for you.

The Frugal Guide To Going To The Movies

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