Frugal NationFrugal Nation

Go to the movies for free

A website called Gofobo gives out passes in many major cities. Here's how to claim yours.

By Donna_Freedman Feb 27, 2012 12:38PM
When I go to the movies, I prefer matinees. Double-digit ticket prices are not frugal. But I saw "Gone" on Thursday night without paying a dime.

No, I didn't sneak in.

I got a free ticket to a preview and enjoyed the stomach-knotting thriller with about a hundred other frugal film aficionados. Since the movie hadn't opened yet, we were all insiders together. (Post continues after video.)
The preview was organized by Gofobo, a website that specializes in movie screenings, contests and special events. Gofobo organizes previews in nearly 150 U.S. and Canadian cities; in the past four years, the company has handed out 6 million passes for some 10,000 screenings.

That's an average of 600 tickets per showing. The overbooking is intentional, since some people print the passes but don't bother attending. But enough of us love free movies that there's always a line at these things, so don't wait until the last minute to show up.
In eight years of previewing, I've never been turned away. But Gofobo Marketing Director Chris Miller suggests getting there up to 90 minutes in advance because some films have more advance buzz than others.

Bring a book, play games on your smartphone or talk with your friends. Gofobo lets you print out one extra pass for a pal; get other peers in on the deal, and you can go as a group.

How to get tickets

Create an account at Gofobo, then type in your ZIP code on the site's "screenings" page. If a preview is marked "open," simply request and print your pass.

The "private" previews require a bit of sleuthing on your part. Gofobo teams up newspapers, colleges, and radio and TV stations to promote the screenings. Ask friends if they know which of those local entities tend to give away passes, then watch/listen for opportunities.

While a midlife student at the University of Washington, I'd get them through the student union. These days I check the movie ads in Seattle's two alternative newspapers. (The only radio station I listen to rarely participates in giveaways.)

If your screening does fill up, get your pass scanned by the folks running the preview. Studio publicists tend to email "turn-aways" to let them RSVP for future screenings.

Gofobo may also contact you separately about upcoming events. In fact, I got an email invite yesterday to "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen." If it's free, it's for me.

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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.