How To Save At The Box Office

Why pay $10 to see a movie when you can save up to 50% by purchasing several tickets at once? Several clubs and organizations offer significant discounts to consumers willing to buy a book of tickets:

AAA: AAA members can save up to 40% by buying a book of tickets from AAA’s website.
Warehouse Clubs: Sam’s Club and Costco both sell books of tickets at discount rates.
Loyalty Programs: It never hurts to nicely introduce yourself to your local theater manager and ask if regular patrons are eligible for discount programs or club cards.

The savings gleaned from buying tickets en masse might even help you stomach the cost of a $7 bucket of popcorn.

Finding bargains at the box office [MarketWatch]
(Photo: Franco Folini)

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  1. JustAGuy2 says:

    Definitely sign up for the loyalty program – AMC’s Moviewatcher works at AMC and Loews theaters, and gets you 1 ticket free after buying 10, discounts on food, and, for those of us who live in places where booking tickets in advance is a good idea, a waiver of the online ticket booking fee.

  2. Matt says:

    Is Manhattan the only city without matinee pricing? City folk can head to Queens for better pricing.

    $4 specials at Sunnyside Center Cinema on Tuesdays/afternoons.

    The Astoria UA/Regal theater USED to have good matinee pricing but they recently put the screws to it. Now, matinees are up to $8 and are only before 3pm Mon-Thur and the first showing on Fri/Sat. Boooo!

  3. crackblind says:

    A lot of times you have to wait 10 days before you can use these tickets. Plus, in Manhattan, you have to pay an extra dollar at the box office.

  4. Karl says:

    @crackblind: Costco here sells two-packs of AMC tickets for $15 ($7.50/ticket). The tickets are valid for all showings, subject to the usual Manhattan surcharge.

  5. ceejceej says:

    Also, hang onto your student id or library card from college/grad school. Many theaters offer student discounts, and the kids at the box office hardly ever look for an expiration date (I’ve blacked mine out). Or you can just buy a child’s ticket for yourself either online, from the auto machines, or, if you are so bold, in person.

  6. lestat730 says:

    I got a book of 10 AMC Silver Experience tickets from AAA as a gift. They say “good for 1 admission” 7 days a week on them so as you can imagine I was pretty damn excited about it. I showed up at the theater only to find out that I can only use my AMC Silver tickets to see a movie that has been out for 10 days already. This annoying rule is not written on the back of my ticket voucher in any form, but is listed on the website. In short, be careful what you buy if you go this route!

  7. captainbozo says:

    Find out if there is still a drive-in open in your area. I never go to the regular theaters because I can get a double feature at the local drive-in for $6 and the food is less than 1/2 price.

  8. Youthier says:

    @ceejceej: If you go with this somewhat dishonest method and you’re seeing an R rated movie, go with the senior citzen ticket though. My movie theater won’t allow a single child ticket to be purchased for an R movie.

  9. G-Dog says:

    Here’s what I do.

    Rather than pay money to listen to other people talk and ignore their ringing phone, I pay $9 a month and get DVD’s sent to me in the mail. That way, I can actually WATCH the movie, rather than spend two hours asking some idiot to shut up and do the same.

  10. Scuba Steve says:

    It seems every single cinema around my town is specifically looking to charge the college age adult as much as possible. No discounts, no cards, or clubs. Not even a matinee.

  11. bohemian says:

    I rarely go to movies anymore. Our local theater options just are not that great. They are either run down or just blah. Combine that with people bring babies to R rated movies at night, guys with cowboy hats, people talking through the movie and cell phones ringing I just have no motivation to go to a theater.

    Now if we had one of those cool theaters that had recliners, tables and real food I might be more interested in dropping quite a bit of money to see a big deal new release.

  12. atbradley says:

    Some large employers also sell discount tickets to their employees. Check your corporate intranet or benefits packet for your employee discount/perks offerings.

  13. eli_b says:

    I only go to the large theaters that offer a student discount, which is at least a dollar off, if not more. I’m kind of boycotting the theaters as it were, and only going to the local independent places. The major theaters here show far too many commercials. Not only is there a commercial for the snack stand, but then you see commercials for a pepsi, a coke, a candy bar, a ticket buying company, and the ARMY, before a preview even starts. Sure you could just come later, but that’s plenty annoying.

  14. Thrust says:

    Yeah, as mentioned, there is a lot of small-print regarding reward tickets, and it aint always actually PRINTED on the things.

    I’m lucky that the mall I live by has two theatres in it (one with a fire-breathing dragon which turns on every half hour or so). The big theatre is a typical first-run showing, but the smaller one is an old Cineplex that they keep around for movies that are almost out on DVD. Still a great theatre, and if you’re patient enough to wait till shows come to it, its only $3.50 any show, any time.

  15. j-o-h-n says:

    If you aren’t in any great hurry you can just wait for them to show up at the 2nd run theaters — the one here is $1.50 ($1 on Wed).

  16. lestat730 says:

    @G-Dog: I can understand the value of a services such as NetFlix, and I have a plan with them as well. But don’t you find it hard to resist some of the amazing summer blockbusters? While it’s undeniable that it’s nice watching movies in the comfort of your own home for practically nothing, waiting up to 6 months for the DVD to come out is just to difficult with some films.

    I saw the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie and Transformers in the theater recently and I must say, some movies are just worth paying to see on a massive screen with a very high end surround sound system. We have a brand new AMC theater with stadium seating so no one ever blocks your view, and people are actually pretty quiet and considerate of others. No one there wants any distractions, especially at $10 a ticket. When someones phone does ring or some other annoyance, enough people will tell them to shut up and give them a dirty look that it never happens again.

    In the end it’s not bad enough to keep me away from the theater and I’ll probably go several times over the summer to see the big blockbusters.

  17. Thrust says:

    @lestat730: In Transformers, when they showed the huge pirate-era ship his grandfather sailed on, didn’t you wish Megatron had come sailing in looking like a war galleon? Possibly crewed by Jack Sparrow and a hundred of his imaginary selves…

    For those who go to movies First Run, here’s a list of ones you MUST see on the big screen, or comit Seppuku…

    Transformers, Pirates of the Carribean 3, Live Free or Die Hard, Bourne Ultimatum (Aug), Rush Hour 3 (Aug), The Golden Compass (Dec), and Resident Evil: Extinction (Sept), I Am Legend (Dec).

    Also, some other good upcoming movies that dont quite require suicide for waiting till 2nd-run or DVD but still damn worth seeing – Shrek3, The Brave One (Sept), The Kite Runner (Nov), Aliens vs Predator II (Dec).

    ’08 has some nice films lined up to be “See or Die” great. Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk (Remake because the last one was dogshit painted green, Ed Norton is Hulk this time), Get Smart (seriously :), and The Mummy 3.

  18. Chicago7 says:

    OR, you can just wait 6 months until the movies come out on DVD and are at the rental places.

    Buy an LCD projector and turn off the lights and you have a movie theater in your home. No more noisy people, bad sound or missing stuff when you have to pee.

    Plus, free concessions, as close as your refrigerator!

  19. Chicago7 says:

    ’08 has INDIANA JONES!

    Who gives a rats ass about the Incredible Hulk when a new Indiana Jones is coming out??

  20. Karmakin says:

    Who cares about EITHER of those. “Cloverfield” is where it’s at.

    Best damn trailer I’ve seen ever.

  21. hardcle says:

    I’ll second AMC’s Moviewatcher. You can get free tickets, popcorn and and drinks. Members also get free popcorn every Wednesday. Local (Kansas City) AMCs also offer $6 admission all day on Wednesday. This has become such a good deal I’ve changed my movie-going day from Saturday to Wednesday.

  22. mjcohen says:

    Just go to a multiplex with many shows and, after one movie, go directly to another. In the place near me, they only check yourticket upon entry to the whole place, not at each theater.

    Of course, this may be frowned upon.

  23. loueloui says:

    I agree Moviewatcher is really a great deal. We have gotten tons of free stuff over the years. It’s well worth the 5 minutes it takes to fill out the form.


    Costco sells advance movie tickets in their warehouse for $7.50 in my area. These are the GOLD tickets which are good for all movies. I think someone mentioned the SILVER tickets are not valid for movies that say ‘no passes’ which is just about every new release.

  24. MalcoveMagnesia says:

    Entertainment Books typically sell the AMC Silver passes. I’m not sure if this year they are over $6 or not (and shipping them to you is extra), but I buy my AMC Silver and Gold passes at my credit union. At $5.50 for silver and $7.50 for gold, I like saving close to 50% off the regular AMC prices.

    And you still earn “MovieWatcher” points when using these passes.

  25. hop says:

    i save a bunch of money, i just don’t go………………

  26. spanky says:

    I just went to an AMC theater for the first time in years, and based on that experience, I’m not going back for another few years (or at least until I forget again).

    What a nightmare. We literally watched over an hour’s worth of commercials before the movie even started.

    We have a membership to our local hoity-toity fillum society, where we get $5.50 discounted admission to a theater where the walls are thick enough that you don’t hear the movie next door, they actually turn the lights down, and where obnoxious dillweeds are astonishingly rare. And they sell Sierra Nevada IPA at the concession stand.

    For major release movies they don’t show there, we’ll just see them at the drive in or wait for the DVD.

    It’s really not that I’m just a film snob or anything, either. I really do want to see a lot of the major release movies that come out. It’s just that the theaters they play in suck so completely that it’s not worth it.

  27. G-Dog says:

    @lestat730:

    No, missing the summer blockbusters doesn’t bother me at all. I’d rather watch the latest toy line shovelers on my 78″ LCD projector three months later than put up with idiots that won’t stop talking.

    The last two movies I saw in the theater were Batman Begins and Snakes on a Plane. At both movies, I had to leave my seat multiple times to complain about people talking/throwing things. Naturally, nothing was done and the entire experience was ruined by idiots.

    It’s just not worth my time and money anymore. If my local theaters are not willing to kick out disruptive jack-holes, I’m not willing to give them my money.

    Plus, my wife and I watch TV series on DVD via Blockbuster online.

  28. spanky says:

    @G-Dog:
    Word, G-Dog!

    The worst part of this is that the MPAA is busy trying to blame every sign of flagging attendance on piracy.

    I do these stupid MPAA surveys sometimes where they ask a bunch of questions about movie attendance, DVDs, etc., and every single one makes a huge point of making some tenuous association between theater attendance and piracy, hammering home the notion that burning or copying movie DVDs is always illegal. (Which is not true, of course.)

    They are very actively avoiding the obvious fact that a lot of people really are either boycotting or avoiding theaters because the movies and/or the theaters suck.

  29. G-Dog says:

    @Chicago7:

    Amen Brotha! On a good day, you can get a good quality ‘office use’ projector for less than $500. So what if it isn’t HD? I don’t have HD movies or a player. And after the 70″ screen size has been reached, it doesn’t matter to me.

  30. G-Dog says:

    @spanky:
    Good point! I don’t bootleg movies, as I’m scared of getting caught.

    However, new types of overpriced food and lackluster movies won’t get me and my wife out of the house. After the second Pirates movie, my wife was totally turned off to the series and doesn’t care to see the new one. It’s not piracy that kept us from watching the third movie, it was the crappy ending of the second movie. I myself won’t pay $25 to hear Optimus Prime pimp eBay.

    My wife and I like catching up on older movies we missed and TV series on DVD. We have had more fun with Charmed and Justice League Unlimited than any big Hollywood production we’ve rented in the past year.

  31. jasonq says:

    I dunno if this is available in every city, but for those with kids (or who just like to be creepy and go see kid movies by themselves), AMC offers a “Summer Movie Camp” series, with second-run animated films.

    Around here they run at 10:00 AM every Wednesday throughout the summer (in my area through 8/15). This week it’s “Ice Age – The Meltdown.” See the listings

    Great way to keep the little monsters occupied on the cheap.

  32. jasonq says:

    Gah, my bad. The link is:

    [www.amctheatres.com]

  33. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    I used to go to the movies about 50 times a year easily. Now I go about 4 times a year and only to those movies like Transformers that need to be seen on the big screen AND are loud enough they will drown out the cell phones, popcorn munching, and kids blabbing. I’ve found a great way to save money on popcorn, candy, and soda. Sneak in your own!

  34. Trai_Dep says:

    If any exhibitors are reading this, I’d go out twice as much if they had real popcorn with real butter, and five times as much if they didn’t have freaken commercials. Or ten times as much.

    Hope you enjoy alienating your customers to bankruptcy, fools.

  35. Matt says:

    Regal theaters don’t show a single commercial after the start time of the movie…you may get 8 trailers..but no commercials.

  36. savvy9999 says:

    all I have to add to the discussion is that Fandango.com is a ripoff. Their “gift certificates” expire, and good luck in getting them renewed. Don’t Fandango, ever.

    I haven’t been to a movie in a theater in years. In the age of TiVo, OnDemand, Netflix, etc, I cannot justify giving someone else a 1000% markup to get the same product (except in a dirtier, noisier environment where you can get blasted with a 1/2 hour of ads!)

    Maybe the art-house/2nd-run places haven’t forgotten how to treat a customer, but the big multiplexes certainly have sucked every drop of enjoyment out of the theater “experience” in order to squeeze every last ducat from consumers.

  37. aparsons says:

    Check with your employer. Many employers will buy bulk packs of the AMC “Silver Experience” tickets and then resell them to employees. My last employer charged $5 per ticket; my current employer in NYC charges $6. The catch: the movie has to be out for 10 days (but if you go later on an off night – like sunday, they generally don’t care). It is a voucher and you just tell them what movie you want to see. I wouldn’t go to the movies unless I had one of these in hand.

  38. samurailynn says:

    We try to only go to movie theaters that don’t play commercials before the movie, and we usually only go to movies that we really want to see as soon as they come out. (For others we’ll go the 2nd run theater that doesn’t allow kids after 6:00pm and sells alcohol, or we’ll wait and watch it on our projector.)

    We do finally go to a first run movie theater last night, and the experience would have been fine. Unfortunately, at the last moment before the movie started a woman sat down next to me who smelled like urine. Also, when she sat down she rubbed her butt across my snack that was sitting in my cup holder. She didn’t apologize or anything. I would have loved to complain about her, but really, what are the theater employees supposed to do about someone who stinks and can’t watch where they put their butt?

  39. alicetheowl says:

    I’m actually going to be paying more to go to the movies now, and quite happily.

    Addressing several of the complaints upthread, a theater in my area just re-opened with an anti-noise policy (they WILL throw people out for being loud, disruptive or rude, and no kids under 6 are allowed at all), they serve real food and alcohol (and I do mean serve – the waitpersons were well-trained in not blocking the screen), and the seating and leg room is great.

    It’s called Cinebarre, and I understand it’s based off a model that’s shown up elsewhere in the country already. I love it.

  40. captainvegetable says:

    I love my local theater chain — the Camera Cinemas in San Jose. They offer a discount card (pack of 10 tickets for $50, good any time except Saturday evenings) that seemingly doesn’t expire, AND they still just show slide show ads and repetitive “trivia” with radio in the background before the trailers. No crappy commercials. I have seldom had a serious gripe with the Cameras, and I do go to movies at least once a month. It’s just something fun to get out of the house, and for $5, I’m happy.

  41. pestie says:

    Or, you could never go to a theater, since the experience is a hideously overpriced nightmare, and Hollywood is turning out bucketloads of crap. If there’s anything I really want to see, chances are I’ll download it and watch it on my flat-screen HDTV in the quiet privacy of my living room. But even that doesn’t happen often. There’s just not much worth seeing.

  42. kracer22 says:

    I always try to hit up matinees whenever I can. Back in college, there was a theatre that had $3 midnight showings, usually for movies that have already been out for at least a week. You can also try asking the local theatre if there are any discounted days. I found out that during the slow months.. Jan-April my local theatre offers $5/Tuesdays, which is cheaper than the matinee price.

  43. Matt says:

    For those yearning for theater experiences of yesteryear, go to the Ziegfeld Theater in Manhattan (West 54th st bet 6th/7th). I saw Ratatouille there yesterday and the experience of seeing a movie there is simply incredible. It’s a real treat.

    As for all the complainers above, there’s ways around nearly all of the complaints. Tix too expensive? Buy discount tix or see a matinee. Food too expensive? Bring your own. Crowds too noise, cellphones, etc? Go at off times (I saw Harry Potter at a 930am showing today). Don’t like half hour of ads? Don’t show up a half hour early.

    If you can’t find a way to enjoy movies on the big screen, you just don’t like movies..period. Nothing beats a huge screen and amazing sound.