How to save money on movie tickets without MoviePass or other subscriptions

Movie-ticket subscriptions are not the only ways to save a buck.
Movie-ticket subscriptions are not the only ways to save a buck.
Image: AP Photo/Richard Drew
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MoviePass and other movie-ticket subscriptions in the US proved themselves to be more trouble than they were worth in 2018.

MoviePass’s $10-per-month subscription for a movie ticket per day had to be dramatically scaled back to keep the company afloat. Its rival, Sinemia, saddled customers with fees, and fledgling subscription services from cinema chains AMC and Cinemark were promising, but limited to their respective movie theaters. MoviePass and its rivals are working out the kinks in their services, and can still be quite a good deal for people who go to movies a lot.

But, for those who are understandably wary of movie-ticket subscriptions, there are other ways to save money on going to the movies.

Discount days

In the US, major movie chains like AMC, Regal, and Cinemark typically offer discounts on less busy days or times of the week, such as Tuesdays or weekday mornings. These are some of the deals you can get, if you’re flexible on when you watch a movie.

  • AMC sells movie tickets for $5 plus tax on Tuesday to AMC Stubs members, the theater chain’s loyalty program, which has a free membership tier.
  • Marcus Theaters, a chain the Midwest, also has a $5 Tuesday deal, and offers $6 movie tickets before 11am at some theaters.
  • Cinemark offers early-bird discounts as well, and has discount days, which are typically held on Tuesdays but vary by theater.
  • Regal offers discounts on set days and cheap prices on matinees, too. The deals are different for each location.

Going out of your way to see a movie on Tuesday, or weekday morning may seem inconvenient. But it isn’t so bad if you consider that with a basic package from MoviePass, you’re now only given a small selection of movies to chose from each day. That might mean the summer blockbusters you want to see are only be available on certain days—or not at all when the film is first released, as happened this past summer.

Loyalty programs

Join your local movie theater’s loyalty program. Most are free to sign up for and come with perks like a few free or discounted movie tickets each year, and deals on popcorn or other concessions. Theater chains like AMC, Regal, Cinemark, Marcus, and Alamo Drafthouse all have free loyalty programs.

As with most rewards programs, the more you spend, the more you get. But most of these will get even casual moviegoers invitations to a few free screenings, and discounted popcorn or soda refills.

Discounts for being you

Many movie theaters also offer deals to students, members of the military, and families, as well as special pricing for children and seniors. The offer information is typically available on the movie theater’s website, or at the box office. It is worth inquiring about the specifics, too. People as young as age 60 are eligible for senior discounts at many movie theaters.

While you’re at, take a look at whether you are part of an organization that offers discounts at local theater chains. Groups like AARP (the American Association of Retired Persons), for example, offer members 20% off Regal movie tickets.

Buy in bulk

Big-box stores like Costco and BJ’s Wholesale Club sell packs of movie tickets for theater chains like AMC. A 12-pack of AMC movie tickets—the black tickets that work at any AMC theater in the US—run for around $120 at Costco. It works out to around $10 per ticket. The average cost of a movie ticket in the US is around $9, but standard-format showings routinely cost upwards of $15 in pricier movie markets like New York City and Los Angeles. Yellow AMC ticket packs, which don’t work at theaters in California, New Jersey, or New York, also sell in 12-packs for around $100.

The secondary market

There’s a secondary market for gift cards and movie tickets that can save you a few bucks, too. People sell unwanted gift cards for major movie theater chains and other retailers, often at a discount, on sites like CardCash and Cardpool.

Deals for local theaters are also available on sites like Groupon.

Drive-ins and second-run theaters

If you’re not dying to see a new movie, look for a second-run or drive-in movie theater in your area. These theaters usually screen older movies, after their initial theatrical runs, or smaller, arthouse films, and they’re often cheaper than your typical multiplex. You’ll be supporting local business, too. Many drive-ins and second-run theaters are independently owned and operated.

It takes a bit of research to find out what discounts are available to you at your local cinemas. But with a little planning, you can save a few bucks without resorting to a subscription service.