Hollywood wants your money. From “The Hunger Games” to “The Avengers” to “The Dark Knight Rises,” studios are rolling out big draws this year to get more people into theater seats. But catching a movie several times a year is expensive.
The average movie ticket price in 2011 rose to $7.93 from $7.89 the year before, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners. But in many parts of the country, like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, ticket prices can hover above $10. And you’ll pay several dollars more for a 3-D movie.
Add a bag of buttered popcorn and a soda, and one person can spend more than $20. A family could spend $80 or more — enough to buy a Blu-Ray player and rent a movie to watch on it.
But if there’s a film you don’t want to miss at the theater, here are some ways to cut costs:
1. Get social: Follow movie theater companies on Twitter or “like” them on Facebook. They often post coupons or hold contests on their pages, says Regina Novickis, a savings expert for coupon website PromotionalCodes.com.
Follow the three biggest movie theater chains: AMC Theatres, Cinemark and Regal Cinemas. Chances are one of those companies has a theater near you. AMC Theatres recently posted a coupon on its Facebook page for a free soda when you buy a ticket to “Titanic 3D” and something else at the concession stand.
Regal and Cinemark post concession stand coupons on their Facebook pages every week. They’re a must when a small soda and popcorn can run about $8. Movie theaters make huge profits from concession stands. (And we’ve HEARD some people sneak in their own snacks, but you didn’t hear it from us.)
2. Buy someone else’s gift card: PlasticJungle.com and Cardpool.com sell unwanted gift cards, including ones for movie theaters. Some are going for as much as 15 percent off their face value. You can also try bidding for them at auction website eBay.com.
3. Monitor daily deal sites: Movie theater companies and online ticket sellers periodically sell discounted tickets through daily deal websites such as Groupon.com and LivingSocial.com. In February, AMC Theaters offered two tickets for $12 on Groupon.
4. Bulk up: If you’re a member, warehouse club stores sell bundles of tickets that can cost less than what you would pay at the theater. BJ’s is selling 4 tickets and a voucher for a small popcorn at AMC Theatres for $34.99. Subtracting the $4 for the popcorn, that comes to about $7.75 a ticket. Cinemark sells a similar package at Costco.
5. Swipe smarter: Check to see if your credit card has any movie theater perks, suggests Mary Hunt, author of “7 Money Rules for Life.” Chase Freedom and Discover are offering 5 percent cash back from April to June for purchases at movie theaters if you sign up for it.
Visa Signature cardholders can get $5 off $25 worth of Fandango gift certificates at fandango.com/visasignature. Keep in mind that Fandango does charge a convenience charge between 75 cents to $1.50 per ticket depending on where you live. It’s as much as $2 if you’re watching it in a large IMAX screen.
Hunt also says that some credit cards may let you use points you’ve acquired to buy tickets or movie theater gift cards, so check if that is an option.
6. Research discount days or times: Find out if your local theater offers discounts for students, seniors, military or special matinee pricing, recommends Erin Chase, a deal expert at coupon website Savings.com. AMC Theatres, for example, offers discounted tickets before noon at all its locations.
7. Wait it out: “Find a theater in your area that features movies that have been out for a few weeks,” says Hunt. You’ll have to wait a few weeks after a movie debuts to make it to these types of theaters, but they are cheaper. In some parts of the country, these theaters sell tickets for as little as a $1.
8. Go old school: Hunt suggests trying a drive-in theater. Many are cheaper than a traditional theater. Find a drive-in near you at Drive-ins.com. The website says there are about 372 drive-ins operating nationwide (after the closure of the Scottsdale 6 Drive-in, located just north of Tempe on Hayden and McKellips roads, late last year, the nearest drive-in to the East Valley is now the West Wind Glendale 9 Drive).