Summer blockbuster season is in full swing. Make the most of these movie theater deals so you can catch all the big releases – and still have money left over for snacks.
When you think of the summer months, you probably think of graduations, weddings and summer vacation. They’re all events worthy of celebration, for sure, but there’s one other thing to be thankful for. Now is the time when the major movie studios roll out their frothy summer releases. Think big stars, big budgets and lots of action.
Even if most of these films aren’t exactly Oscar material, it’s still fun to sit in a cold cinema, drinking fountain soda and eating candy on a sweltering summer day. So here’s how to take in a fun flick every weekend without going broke.
[See: 6 Ways to Treat Yourself on a Budget.]
1. Buy tickets in advance: At Costco, you can get four-packs or 10-packs of tickets to major theater chains, such as Regal Cinemas and Cinemark Theatres, at discounted prices. For example, 10 prepaid tickets to Cinemark cost $8.49 per ticket. You can even print at home, so you can get (and use) them instantly. No wait, no shipping fees.
2. Nab discounts: Obviously, if there’s a student, senior or military discount that you’re eligible for at the box office, take it. But there are others to be had, too. AAA members, for example, can get movie tickets at several theater chains through the association’s website (or at any of its brick-and-mortar locations) at up to 30 percent off. The AARP offers its members print-on-demand tickets to any Regal cinema at up to 25 percent off.
[See: 12 Ways to Be a More Mindful Spender.]
3. Get rewards: Most theaters offer rewards programs, which allow loyal moviegoers to earn discounts or upgrades. Some programs are free. In fact, at Carmike Cinemas, you get a free small popcorn just for enrolling, and Bow Tie Cinemas will send you a free movie ticket on your birthday. Others come with an annual fee. AMC’s Stubs, for example, costs $12 a year, but you get $10 back for every $100 you spend (on full-price tickets and snacks), plus free size upgrades on concessions. Ask your local theater if it has a program, too.
4. Go early: If you’ve got a flexible schedule or are willing to play hooky, oftentimes movie theaters, including many Cinemark franchises, will discount the first matinee of the day. Those showings are also rarely crowded, so it’s like having your own personal screening room.
[See: 10 Fun, Frugal Ways to Spend Your Free Time.]
5. Go on a Tuesday: That’s the day many national chains, including Bow Tie Cinemas, Cinemark, Showcase and Regal, deeply discount their ticket prices in order to drive midweek traffic into the theater. Consider swapping your date night from Saturday to Tuesday, and use the money you’ve saved to buy your honey a bouquet of flowers.
6. Share snacks: Most theaters post signs that say “No outside food or drinks,” so if you feel like living on the edge and sneaking in your own, know that you may be asked to leave if you get caught. There’s no rule, however, against bringing in your own empty cup and bag. One tub of popcorn, which often comes with a free refill, is usually cheaper than buying two smalls, and if you happen to have an extra brown paper bag in your pocket or purse, you can easily share the buttery stash. Same with the sodas. Order the jumbo size, and pour it between empty cups so everyone has their own. Or, if you’re feeling romantic, just share the straw.
7. Hit the drive-in: Yes, they still exist, and while you pay for admission per person, not per car, most still offer double features, which means two movies for the price of one. Find one near you at driveinmovie.com.
8. Watch them outside: Most major cities, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin and Denver, offer free outdoor movies in parks during the summer. To find out if your town does, check with your local chamber of commerce or parks department. Then invite some pals, grab a blanket and pack a picnic. Watching a free movie with friends under the stars is one of summer’s greatest pleasures. Don’t miss it.