16 Ways to Score Cheap Movie Tickets and Save at the Theater
Now that America’s largest movie theater chain is going to start charging ticket prices based on where your seat is located, it’s time to think about ways you can save money at the movies.
Seriously, folks, AMC Theatres’ new pricing policy has a lot of people riled up. Just for example, actor Elijah Wood says it’ll penalize moviegoers who have lower incomes. “The movie theater is and always has been a sacred democratic space for all,” Frodo tweeted.
Still, by the end of the year at every AMC theater, seats in the front will be cheaper while the best seats in the middle will cost more.
If you ask us, it’s just another way for them to gouge you.
16 Ways to Save Money at the Movie Theater
Fortunately, we’ve got ideas for how you can save a buck or two at the movies. Check out our list of 16 ways to spend less at the theater.
1. Go to Matinees
Going to a matinee can knock up to 30% off the ticket price, but watch out for the theater’s definition of “matinee.”
Shows before 4 p.m. used to be called matinees at most theaters, but some now charge the evening price for anything that starts after 3 p.m.
2. Go to Pre-Matinees
Some theaters offer an even better deal for really early movies — “pre-matinees.”
These typically apply to movies starting before noon.
3. Go on Tuesday!
America’s three largest movie theater chains all have the same discount day — Tuesday. You also have to join their customer loyalty club to get the Tuesday discount, but that’s usually free.
AMC: The biggest chain in the U.S. has Discount Tuesdays if you’re a member of its loyalty club, which is called AMC Stubs. You can join for free, although there’s also a premium option you can pay for if you want. As for Discount Tuesdays, the ticket price varies by location.
Regal Cinemas: These theaters have Regal Value Days on Tuesdays, when Regal Crown Club members get discounted movie ticket prices and 50% off popcorn. The club is free to join. A look at this theater-by-theater list shows that most Regal theaters charge either $5 or $5.95 for movie tickets on Tuesdays.
Cinemark: This theater chain has Discount Tuesdays if you’re a Cinemark Movie Rewards member. There’s a free option or a $10-per-month option that gets you more perks. Again, the ticket price on Tuesdays varies by location.
4. Buy at Your Warehouse Club — In Person or Online
Seriously, you should make full use of those warehouse club memberships! If you shop at Sam’s Club or Costco, ask about theater tickets at the customer service desk. They often have them at a discount.
Costco also sells theater tickets online at a discount, and so does Sam’s Club.
5. Try Groupon
It’s kind of a crapshoot, obviously. But you can always hop on Groupon to see what kind of movie ticket deals are going on there. We see deals for AMC, Regal and Cinemark theaters there, off and on.
The website LivingSocial is another option to check here.
6. Eat Before You Go
These days, lots of movie theaters go well beyond popcorn, Sno-Caps and Raisinets. If you’re hungry, you’ll be super tempted by the hot dogs, nachos, cheese fries, chicken tenders, pizza…
And they’re all way overpriced, of course.
You’d be better off eating in a restaurant beforehand.
Save even more money by eating at home before you go.
7. Share the Snacks
Theaters don’t want you to bring your own food.
But we haven’t seen them stop parents who bring their own paper bags to divvy up a large bucket of popcorn between the kids.
It’s much cheaper than buying a small bag of popcorn for each person. Share other snacks to save money.
8. Get Special Discounts
You might qualify for special discounts — and you could save up to 35%. Here are some examples:
9. Buy Discount Movie Gift Cards
There are a number of places where you can buy discounted theater gift cards online. For example, you can buy AMC gift cards on online marketplaces like Raise for discounts of up to 25%.
Use them for matinees, and your total cost might be less than half of what an evening ticket costs.
10. Go to Discount Theaters
These are also called late-run movie theaters. You’ll see the same movie, so why not wait a couple of months and catch it for less?
Just search “discount theater” plus the name of your city to locate cheap movies.
11. Join the Club
Most theaters have a club or loyalty program you can join to save money. Here are some examples:
The largest theater chain’s loyalty club, AMC Stubs, has three tiers.
- Insider is free and gets you perks like Discount Tuesdays, which is probably the main attraction here. You also earn $5 back for every $50 you spend.
- Premiere seems pricy to us. It costs $15 per month and lets you reserve theater tickets online for free. You can also upsize your popcorn and fountain drinks. Doesn’t sound like a great deal.
- A-List lets you see three movies a week for $20 a month. That’s a lot of movies.
The Regal Crown Club is free to join and gets you access to Regal Value Days on Tuesdays, where you get discounted ticket prices and 50% off popcorn.
Cinemark has Movie Fan, which is free, and Movie Club, which costs $10 a month and gets you one movie a month and 20% off concessions.
12. Go to a Drive-In Theater
Check DriveInMovie.com or DriveInTheater.com to see if one of the few remaining drive-in theaters is near you.
Call or check online to see if they have discount days or a price-per-car night when you can bring the whole family or split the cost with friends. And check out our tips for maximizing the fun.
13. Go to Advance Screenings for Free
Movie companies sometimes offer free tickets to the public for advance screenings. If you get one, go early — movie screenings often get overbooked.
Here are a few places you can check to see if anything is available near you:
See The Penny Hoarder’s post on ways to get free tickets to advance movie screenings for more tips on how to snag these freebies.
14. Buy in Bulk for a Discount
At BulkTix.com, save up to $5 per ticket for some theaters if you buy more than four at a time. At Costco, you get a discount when buying 10-packs of tickets at the store.
15. Go to Late Shows
Some theaters offer cheap tickets for late-night shows — sometimes at matinee prices.
Showings typically start around midnight. If you’re a night owl, this can be a great way to avoid the crowds and save a few bucks.
16. Sit in the Front Row at AMC Theatres
If you’re OK with sitting in the front row, you’re in luck! It’s not really most moviegoers’ favorite spot, though.
By the end of the year at all of AMC’s movie theaters, here’s how the tickets will be priced:
The most desirable seats in the middle of the theater will be priced at a “slight premium” compared with the regular theater seats, which will remain the most common choice, AMC says. Those regular seats will continue to cost the current price. Seats in the front row are “value seating” and will cost less than the typical seat.
It’s up to you, but you might want to avoid neck strain and stick with the regular seating. You can always save a few bucks by not buying those Raisinets.
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Steve Gillman is a former contributor to The Penny Hoarder.