How to go to the movies for less
If you're paying full price at the box office every time you see a film, know that the people across the aisle may not have. What do they know that you don't?
With dinner and a movie easily costing upwards of $70, the stereotypical date night has been priced out of many peoples' budgets. Indeed, it's natural to wonder whether cheap movie tickets are just a relic of days gone by. In some cities matinee tickets go for more than $10 a pop, and IMAX, 3-D, and other special screen options often add on extra charges.
To give you some relief from sticker shock, we hunted down ways to save when going to the movies. Solutions come from startups, corporate promotions, and even from theaters that reward loyal customers.
Launched last July to help college students in Santa Cruz, Calif., afford summer movies, Dealflicks has since spread to theaters across the country.
The company helps movie theaters fill up seats that would otherwise sit empty by allowing them to discount ticket prices at the box office (exactly how much is at the theater's discretion). Through the company site or app you'll find cheap movie tickets at 15% to 60% off retail and bundle packages, such as two tickets/two drinks/one popcorn, for the same steep discount.
Dealflicks doesn't have an agreement with a big distributor like AMC, yet but the list of participating theaters is growing. The company's iPhone app also helps you locate participating theaters with discounted movie tickets nearby.
Another interesting app for iOS and Android has been released by Cinemark, which runs Century Theaters, CineArts, and Tinseltown. The app rewards moviegoers who refrain from using their mobile phone during the presentation.
In order to earn rewards, such as free goodies at the concession stand, users must open and activate the app when the movie starts. If at any time during the movie you open a different app, answer a text, or use your phone for any reason you forfeit the reward. Plus, you can stack the rewards on top of any deal you find for cheap movie tickets elsewhere.
The buy-in-bulk trend has been around for some time now but is still worth mentioning. Members of AAA and Costco, for example, have access to packs of 10 AMC movie passes for $70 to $85. That may not count as a cheap movie ticket in some locales, but if you're in a city like New York or Los Angeles, that could be the equivalent of a 50% savings.
You can also by movie ticket packs directly from AMC and Regal but you'll have to buy lots of tickets upfront. Consider joining forces with a group of friends or co-workers to keep that upfront outlay reasonable for each participant.
Daily deal sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial also occasionally mount promotions for such passes but stay alert -- the deals only run for a few days. Although these cheap movie tickets deals are cheaper than the regular price, you'll pay extra to use a pass for special screenings like RPX or 3-D films. Some passes come with restrictions and may not be valid for the opening week (or two) of popular movies.
Large movie theater chains such as AMC, Regal and Cobb also offer loyalty programs for frequent customers. As a member of the program you earn points for each ticket you buy and can redeem points for movie tickets or concession stand snacks. The Cobb program offers one free ticket after you've bought 15. At Regal you earn a point per dollar spent on tickets and at 150 points you get a free ticket.
The AMC program comes with a $12 annual fee but includes free popcorn and soda upgrades and reverses Fandango fees for moviegoers who buy tickets online. Instead of earning points, AMC gives you a $10 gift card for every $100 spent on tickets. One drawback is that these programs don't reward purchases of discounted movie tickets, like the passes mentioned above.
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