Nine Tips to Save Money on Movies

I enjoy seeing movies, but it costs a fortune to visit the theater. To save money, I came up with nine legal tips to save money on movies. But first, the backstory, which every good movie has:

Where I live in Los Angeles, the lowest priced movie theater is $12. If I want to drive a little further, the price falls all the way to $11. It’s practically a bargain (if you live in crazytown.) For this reason, I rarely see movies in the theater. I believe the last movie I saw was Harry Potter, sometime last summer.

On top of the cost, I just don’t want to take the time to drive to the theater, fight for parking, sit in the theater for well over two hours, then drive all the way home. On top of that, it seems like the 8 or 9 PM movie is dead. Instead I’m stuck with 7:40 or 10:15. One is too early for dinner and one gets out really late.

But, of course, I still want to see movies. Without further delay, here are my tips:

Find a bargain theater.

Most areas have one or two bargain theaters. These are “second-run” theaters showing movies that are probably already on DVD. The upside is that tickets are usually less than $5. The downside is that the sound and seats aren’t so great. If you must have the big screen experience, this is the way to go, but it’s not my personal favorite. A commenter on another blog I read (and I’m so sorry I forgot which one) suggested visiting university theaters, but most of the universities near me limit their screenings to students and faculty.

Join Netflix or Blockbuster Online.

One reason I rarely see movies in theaters is the 190 movies on my Blockbuster list. I call it the tyranny of Blockbuster, but it is nice to get movies mailed to my home. During the summer, we can usually get through three movies a week. We pay $20 a month, so that works out to $1.66 a movie. We especially like having the ability to start and stop the movie or to watch it any time of day.

Attend matinees. 

These days it seems that matinees aren’t that much cheaper than evening films, but you can save a little money if you’re willing to go to the first showing. Make sure you avoid the snacks, though. My trick is to carry my big purse and bring in my own bottle of water and bag of candy. This works better for adults than teens.

Watch movies on Demand. 

If you have cable and a digital box, you may have a small selection of free movies. Skim through it to see if there’s anything decent showing. I have one pay channel, so I occasionally watch movies from its on Demand menu. I’ll continue to do so until I can finally convince my husband to cancel the channel.

Rent from the library. 

Most libraries carry a selection of first-run movies. The one drawback to my library system is that they won’t send movies through interlibrary loan. The selection at my library is limited, so I’ve never rented from there, but I hear that other systems will send movies between branches. If you’re looking for a foreign language film and live in a big city, check a branch in the neighborhood where that language is common.

Buy previously viewed movies. 

Personally, I don’t understand why people buy movies, but if you like to own them, wait until they’re on sale at the video store. You can usually pick them up for less than $5. You can also try Amazon, eBay, and, but consider the shipping cost before making the purchase.

Find a bargain rental store. 

Many neighborhoods have bargain rental stores. If you can wait a few months, you can often rent the movie for $1. This was dicey during the VHS days, but DVDs retain their quality well.

Join movie theater clubs. 

If you really want the theater experience in the evening, see if the theater has a movie club. Each time you buy tickets or concessions, the club gives you points. Eventually you’ll earn free popcorn, drinks, candy, and tickets.

Use Entertainment Book coupons. 

If you buy an Entertainment Book, look in the back for the movie ticket coupons. Usually you have to mail away for the passes, but they save at least 25% on the tickets, sometimes more.

Bonus tip: Join an entertainment guild. 

All you have to do is break into the movie/television industry, become eligible for one of the entertainment guilds, and then receive your membership card. That card will get you access to free movies during awards season. If you want to see free new releases at home, then work even harder to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Sure, you’ll have to put up with long hours, unreliable employment, and Hollywood’s self-importance, but you do get to see the free movies during Oscar season.

I think I’ll stick to the first nine tips. It’s just easier. What are your tips for saving money on movies?

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