If you’ve been to the movies lately, you might have noticed the steadily climbing prices of tickets and concessions in direct proportion to the rate your wallet has been thinning.
If you’re not already choking on dry movie popcorn, the price of those kernels is enough to make you gag – $4 and up for a large. And with tickets upwards of $8, someone making minimum wage would have to work through the entire movie “Inspector Gadget” (from opening to closing credits, at 88 minutes) to afford a ticket at the theater.
Most of us would appreciate paying less for our movie-going experiences. And, outside of illegally downloading a bootleg copy of “The Matrix Revolutions,” there are ways to enjoy a trip to the big screen with some snacks, for less.
* Go to a matinee. Most movies that start on or before 5:30 p.m. have lower admission than primetime evening shows. For these earlier showings, ticket prices are as low as $5. Compared with an $8 ticket, you’ll save 31 percent when you opt for an early show.
* Don’t go on the weekends. Some theaters reward you for not coming on their busy days – Friday, Saturday and Sunday – by offering reduced admission during the week. Often, theaters will charge the matinee price for any movie shown during those days, at any time. If you can wait, skip opening night.
* Use a movie pass. Theaters such as Loews distribute movie passes, which allow you to buy a $5 coupon to see an $8 movie. Loews does not sell the passes directly, but some businesses, colleges and organizations sell the coupons as part of an “employee/student discount” program. Many Visa credit card holders can also take advantage of the deal. Ask around to see who offers these movie passes. If you really live at the movies, you can go to Loews directly and buy a book of 50 passes, which will allow you to see 50 movies in one year for the price of the book, $265. The same amount of movie tickets at regular price would cost $400.
* Flash your student identification card. Doing so will get you a student discount, which means saving $2 on admission at AMC Theaters.
* Get a job at the movie theater. You’ll see a bunch of movies and get paid for it.
* Sign up for MovieWatcher. AMC Theaters patrons can join MovieWatcher, a club that rewards regular visitors with free tickets and concession-stand food. It’s free to join. Each time you buy a ticket, hand over your MovieWatcher card to accumulate points you can redeem for a free pass. Visit moviewatcher.com for further details.
* Buy a lot of Glad bags. Google for “free movie passes,” and the search engine will spit out rebate offers from Glad, Nestle and other manufacturers, which allow you to buy their products (which you presumably already do) and cut out the UPCs to complete an offer for a free movie pass. If you know you’ll eventually go to the movies, use this offer – but don’t expect to time the mail delivery of your free pass with an opening night, because rebates can take months to process.
* Don’t buy a soda. A large soda will cost you $4 and up at a theater concession stand. Let’s not forget that your fountain beverage is mostly ice, not soda (which is already thinned out in the fountain.) After you take out the ice and extra water, your jumbo Shrek commemorative soda cup contains about as much soft drink as an 11.5 ounce can of soda. A soft drink costs about 45 cents, so you’re paying about 1,000 percent more for soda in a movie theater.
Furthermore, the same fountain drink at a restaurant (often with free refills) won’t cost you more than $2. Should you shell out $4 for something easy to get at one-one thousandth of the cost elsewhere? I wouldn’t, especially if it will make me go to the bathroom and miss some of the movie.
* Don’t buy food (especially popcorn). Film companies demand as much as a 75 percent cut for every ticket the theater sells. In order to make up for this, the theater concession stand products are overpriced. Still, the captive audience waits in long lines to buy food.
According to the Angelika Film Center in Dallas, for a 50-pound bag of ingredients, theaters will pay anywhere between $12 to $32. So, for every portion a moviegoer buys, about 50 cents worth of ingredients are used. When a patron buys a large popcorn at $5.50, the theater has marked up the price by more than 1,500 percent. Compare this to delicatessens, which mark up prices by an average of 51 percent. So, skip the popcorn and watch the rest of the fools endure long lines and high prices.
* Try bringing your own food. I’ve never heard of anyone getting kicked out of a theater for sneaking in some Jujubes and Goobers, have you? Truthfully, most theaters don’t allow this practice. But enforcement seems as rare as getting pulled over for driving 51 mph in a 50 mph zone. According to an AMC representative, this chain doesn’t mind if you bring food from home, but may stop you if you’re bold enough to carry in two liters of soda and an extra-large pizza. Be discreet, and you should be fine.
* Don’t go. After a night out with friends at a local eatery, the next course after dessert is often a movie. This is usually a spontaneous decision, made as a way to prolong the evening’s fun. We flock to the theater and, after staring at the movie timetable for some time, inevitably pick the movie that will begin soon, regardless of whether we know anything about it or even want to see it. This almost never ends happy. Personally, I always end up sore, sitting through a bad movie I paid too much to see. Save money by skipping the post-dessert movie and head home for a game of Uno.
Entertainment, since it is not a necessity, can be eliminated entirely – you’ll still live. Treat a trip to the movies like the treat it is, and your wallet will thicken.