There’s just something about seeing a movie in a movie theater: the corny commercials and trivia questions before the movie starts. The taste of buttery popcorn washed down with a soda. The excitement of seeing trailers for new releases. The sense of community as you laugh and cry with strangers.
Unfortunately, the rising price of movie tickets has made the moviegoing experience more of a special treat than a regular outing, with some people skipping the movie theater altogether. AAA Tickets has helped thousands of members save money at the movie theater box office, but there are other ways to get cheap movie tickets so you can indulge in some salty popcorn or a sweet treat.
Average Price of a Movie Ticket
The average price of a movie ticket in 2021 was $9.57. However, that figure varies wildly based on what type of screen you see (IMAX, 3D, etc.), what ticket you purchase and where you buy your tickets. The city you’re in can also impact the price — movie tickets in places with a higher cost of living, like San Francisco or New York City, will cost more than places with a lower cost of living.
But part of the moviegoing experience is getting snacks and a drink. We gathered the average cost of snacks and drinks from Movie Food Prices to determine how much a family of four will spend at the movies. We’ve calculated that buying four tickets, four drinks, and one large refillable popcorn bucket will add up to $63.83, plus the cost of popcorn refills.
How To Get Cheap Movie Tickets
If you want to do the classic dinner-and-a-movie date night, those tickets can push you over the edge from an affordable night out to something you have to save for. The same is true if you’re looking to take the whole family to the latest children’s flick.
Here are a few movie theater hacks to help you save money and still afford your popcorn.
1. Use AAA Tickets
AAA Tickets saves AAA members up to 40 percent on movie tickets. Visit AAA.com/tickets and click on Movie Tickets to purchase your discounted tickets to national and participating local movie theater locations.
2. Join Your Favorite Theater’s Loyalty Program
If you frequent the same movie theater in town, ask if they have a loyalty program. Most movie theater chains have a loyalty program that allows you to purchase reduced-price tickets or earn free tickets. Plus, most also include discounts on your favorite movie theater snacks!
Most movie theater loyalty programs are free to join, although they may offer an upgraded program for a yearly fee. The upgrade is worth it if you save more than the yearly fee costs.
3. Go on Discount Day
Since the average person works or has school during the week, movie theaters may offer a weekly discount day to lure people into the theater. America’s three largest movie theater chains — Cinemark, Regal Cinemas and AMC — designate Tuesday as their discount day.
Not only will you save a few bucks on your ticket, but there’s also a good chance you won’t have to fight a crowd for your seat.
4. Opt for the Matinee
Going to the movies is a popular social activity, so late afternoon and evening showings are usually busier. But if you’re OK with going to an early show, you’ll pay the matinee price, which is typically a few bucks cheaper than the standard movie ticket. After all, who says you have to have dinner and a movie in that order? See the movie first, then go to dinner so you can analyze the film afterward.
Most movie theaters consider any movie before 4 p.m. a matinee. Some theaters may offer a larger discount on the first showing of the day, sometimes called a pre-matinee. You may also be able to get the matinee price for the last showing of the night if it’s after 11 p.m.
5. Find a Local Discount Theater
Head to your local discount theater if you don’t need all the modern bells and whistles or if you don’t mind waiting a few months to see movies. Oftentimes the movie quality is the same as the big-name chains, but the theater lacks modern upgrades like stadium seating and dinner service, or the movies have been out for a while.
6. Enjoy a Drive-In Movie
Drive-in theaters are another alternative if you’re looking to save money. Most of them charge per person, but they’ll often run carload sales where you pay a flat fee per car no matter how many people are inside. In that case, everyone can split the ticket cost and pay less than a traditional movie ticket.
7. Buy Your Tickets Online to Access Coupon Codes
Before you buy your ticket online, look for coupon codes. Use a browser extension like Honey or search the name of your movie theater, the word “coupon” and the month and year (to avoid returning expired codes). Explore your options before you make a purchase. Some coupons may be specific to the movie theater’s website, or box office sites like Fandango or MovieTickets.com might have better coupons.
However, check for any service fees that might be added to an online purchase. You may discover that the coupon will only save you enough to cover the service fee.
8. Skip the Fancy Screens
There have been amazing advancements in movie theater technology like 3D capabilities and IMAX or the newest technology, 4DX, which involves practical effects like moving seats and scents. While these technologies are cool to experience, it costs money for movie theaters to install. As a result, your ticket will cost a few bucks more — in some cases, it could even double the standard ticket price.
Unless the IMAX screen or the 3D graphics will add significantly to the overall movie experience, stick to the traditional screen to save money.
9. Attend Free Screenings
Look for free screenings in your area. Many movie studios offer free preview showings to create buzz around the movie or get audience feedback before the full release. You’ll probably have to do some internet sleuthing to discover free screenings since they aren’t usually publicly advertised. Start your research on production company websites or advance screening websites like Gofobo.
Keep in mind that having a ticket to a preview screening doesn’t guarantee you’ll get in. The goal of a screening is to fill every seat, so whoever is promoting the preview will give out more tickets than seats to ensure a full house. For the best chance at getting a seat, plan on arriving at the theater 30 minutes to an hour before showtime.
10. Look for Dinner-and-a-Movie Packages
Do an online search for dinner-and-a-movie packages. Movie theaters sometimes partner with nearby restaurants to offer special deals, and wholesalers may offer dinner-and-a-movie gift card bundles. Local travel sites or chamber of commerce websites may also offer these types of packages.
11. Buy Child, Senior, Student and Military Discounts at the Door
You used to be able to buy discounted tickets online, but too many people abused the system by purchasing discounted tickets even though they didn’t qualify. Movie theaters have wised up, and now only offer these discounted tickets in person where they can ask for an ID.
12. Get Tickets in Bulk
Most movie theaters offer bulk tickets for less than a standard movie ticket. As long as the tickets aren’t tied to a specific movie and don’t expire for a while, purchase the minimum number of tickets and use them throughout the year. Warehouse stores also often sell packs of tickets so you can buy them in bulk.
13. Purchase Tickets With Discounted Gift Cards
This hack requires some pre-planning, but you can combine it with any of the other hacks on this list to increase your savings. Warehouse stores often sell bundled discounted gift cards, where you can get $100 worth of gift cards for a lower price. Or you may have a credit card that gives you 5 percent back on all purchases, so the $100 gift card you purchase only costs you $95.
Go to the Movies With AAA Tickets
Check out more AAA discounted ticket options below: