Either because films are so popular with the mainstream, or because movie tickets are already fairly inexpensive relative to, say, opera tickets, movie theater owners seem reluctant to offer discounts. However, we have discovered several ways to get your flick fix (plus a little free popcorn) at a discount.
Free Screenings – Anywhere from a few weeks to several months before the official release of a movie, it may be screened in several cities to test audience reaction or to give critics a chance to view it. Free tickets are handed out to regular folks on the street in order to fill up seats at these screenings. Passes are often distributed outside cineplexes during the day or when movie screenings let out. Once you have attended one, you can usually get on an email or call list to be invited to future screenings. Also try signing up at a website like USAAudiences.com. The catch is that some of these screenings are in the afternoon or early evening before the nine-to-fivers get off work. Furthermore, attendees cannot be involved in the media or film industry.
Free Passes – Local entertainment weeklies or magazines like Time Out New York give out free passes through regular drawings all the time. Usually you just have to go to a web address and submit your email and contact info to be considered. Radio stations often give out passes to their listeners as well if they call in at the right time or are able to answer a special quiz question.
Matinees and Off-Peak Hours – Most movie theaters sell tickets for a few dollars less in the afternoon when they have a harder time filling seats. AMC Theaters sell tickets to morning showings for about half price.
Discounts for Students, Senior Citizens, and Kids – Many theaters offer discounts for seniors, students with valid ID, and for children.
Special Weekday Deals – Check with your local movie houses to see if they offer any bargains on slow days. Tuesdays are most often targeted as “bargain” days, but some theaters will discount prices on other weekdays as well.
Second-Run Movie Houses – Often referred to as “dollar theaters” (though prices can vary anywhere between 50 cents and a few bucks), these second-run theaters are a good way to see a flick on the big screen without paying big prices – if you are willing to wait a couple months after a movie’s theatrical release.
Coupons – Coupons for movies are hard to come by, but you can often find them in the Entertainment coupon books.
Rewards Cards – Check to see if your favorite movie chain or theater offers a rewards card. AMC’s Stubs program and Regal’s Crown Club reward customers primarily with free popcorn and drinks, but if you rack up enough points, you can qualify for free or discount movie tickets as well.
Memberships – Some smaller “art house” movie theaters have membership programs that will allow significant discounts on tickets, plus admission to member-only events and other perks. A few large arts organizations (such as the Brooklyn Academy of Music or the Museum of Modern Art)offer small theaters for movie screenings – membership at BAM or just a one-day admission ticket to the MOMA will get you free and discounted admission to many films.