How To Score Cheap Movie Tickets

How to score cheap movie tickets

I don't know about you, but I love going to the cinema to watch a movie!

It's a great way to get out of the house and enjoy a night out with family or friends. There's just something about the experience that makes it so much better than watching a movie at home, even if it is MUCH more expensive.

With the price of a single admission approaching $15 per ticket in some cities, it can cost a fortune to go out to the movies with your spouse especially if you include the insane cost of movie food. Add on a babysitter and you could be getting close to $75 or more for one night at the movies!

Fortunately, there are a lot of creative ways to score cheap movie tickets and I've put together a pretty comprehensive list:

Discount Movie Passes

There are actually a ton of ways you can advance purchase discount movie passes that makes getting cheap movie tickets a breeze. You can find these cheap movie passes at various retail stores, through certain membership programs, or sometimes even through your employer. Here are a few specific examples:

Costco Cineplex Movie Packages

One of the quickest and easiest ways to get discount movie passes is at Costco. They "Great Escape" Cineplex package for adults costs $26.99 when bought directly at the warehouse. You get 2 regular adult admissions, 1 regular popcorn, and 2 regular fountain drinks all for that one price. Keep in mind, it is $3 extra per person to upgrade to 3D. Depending on how you value the tickets and the refreshments, you could be getting a value of up to $45 there.

Costco also offers kids packages for about $10 which gives you an under 13 regular admission ticket and a kids pack from the concession stand (popcorn, soft drink, and small candy).

It’s worth noting that Costco.ca often has these same or similar packages at a slightly increased price so you can buy them even if you aren’t a Costco member - but they do go out of stock often. If you aren't a member, try convincing your friends who are to pick a few passes for you.

Virgin Mobile BOGO

Virgin offers buy one get one free (BOGO) movie passes to its customers several times a year. This is great if you are already a "member" or know somebody who is. The good news is that you can become a member cheaply when you buy a prepaid SIM card (about $5). Once you have that, you can insert it in any unlocked phone and use it to claim your BOGO code.

The downside is that your SIM card will expire in 120 days from when your balance reaches $0. The minimum top up is $15 and that lasts for 30 days. So you can wait 119 days after buying the SIM, top up for $15, then you should have 150 days before it is set to expire again. Keep topping up every 149 days to keep it active.

CAA

Being a CAA member can have its perks and one of them does happen to be cheap movie tickets! CAA offers a discount on individual Cineplex movie tickets and sometimes packages as well. The packages aren’t quite as cheap as they are at Costco, but still a reasonable deal if you can’t take advantage of the Costco deal. They also offer single admission passes at $9.83 each, which is something you can’t buy at Costco which is great for those people who don’t want over-priced food at the movies or don’t want to spend the extra money to get it.

Employee Discount Programs

Many larger employers offer employee discount programs for their employees to take advantage of. Typically the discounts given are of marginal value at best, but many such programs do offer decent discounts on movie tickets. For example, a previous employer of mine offered us single admission movie tickets for $2.50 off the regular price. Check with your employer to see if they offer a similar program!

Redeem Points For Movie Passes

There are several rewards programs out there that let you exchange your reward points for movie passes. I always recommend using your points in any rewards program to purchase the reward that offers the best overall value. For most airline rewards programs, that's almost exclusively flights. Fortunately, movie passes also typically offer really good value in almost all rewards programs that offer them. The reason for that is because it is easy for rewards programs to purchase movie passes in bulk from the cinema chains at a big discount and they pass on some of those discounts to their rewards programs members.

SCENE Points

SCENE is the rewards program for the largest movie chain in Canada - Cineplex. The program is quite generous and at its core you get 100 points for every regular movie you watch allowing you to redeem for a free movie with 1,000 points - or 1 free for every 10 you pay for. That said, there are plenty of ways to maximize SCENE points so that you can get free movies much more often. Here are a few examples:

  • Get the Free Scotiabank SCENE Visa to earn points crazy fast:
    • 2,000 = 2 free movies just for signing up.
    • 5 points per dollar spent at Cineplex theaters and their online store.
    • 1 point per dollar spent on all your everyday purchases.
  • Buying tickets online gives you an 20 bonus points.
  • Seeing a 3D movie gives you 50 more points.
  • Buying special movie food combos can give you 1,000 bonus points or more
  • Going to a movie with your friends using SCENEtourage for 50 bonus points
  • Get points for shopping at affiliated stores like Cara restaurants (Swiss Chalet, Montana's, Kelsey's, etc) and Sport Chek.
  • Use bonus point coupons at affiliated stores - Swiss Chalet regularly issues 30x bonus coupons.
  • Collect points using discount tickets and redeem them for full-priced tickets.
  • Get points for renting or buying movies from the Cineplex store - including insane bonuses several times a year.

SCENE also gives you a 10% discount on movie food and a 10% discount on the already discounted Cineplex Tuesday cheap night admission price.

Air Miles

You can no longer get movie passes using Air Miles Dream rewards, but they do offer $10 Cineplex eVouchers for Air Miles Cash users for the usual 95 miles.

Related: 5 Best Ways To Redeem Your Air Miles

Movie Coupons

Like with many other retailers, it is possible to get coupons for discounts on movie tickets and the savings can be substantial. The only problem is knowing when and where to find these coupons. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Coupon Books

Coupon books like The Entertainment Book often have movie discounts included in them along with a ton of other high value coupons for discounts on all kinds of entertainment, attractions, and restaurants. Your local region may have other coupon books available as well but The Entertainment Book is the most recognized one in Canada and the USA. I’ve personally purchased several Entertainment Books as well as multiple coupon books only offered in my local area and have derived incredible value from them.

Get A Canadian Entertainment Book

Free Movies On Cereal Boxes

One of the best ways to get incredibly cheap movie tickets is to pay attention for the various movie deals tied to cereal. Yes, that’s right, cereal!

From time to time companies like General Mills will include a coupon for a completely free movie ticket or a huge discount off the purchase price like a buy one get one free admission. I’ve actually seen movie deals like this on other products as well, but several cereal vendors seem to have these movie promotions on an annual basis.

When you consider that a box of cereal typically costs less than $5 (maybe even $2-$3 on sale or with a coupon), then you can see how much money you can save! Not only do you get the cereal, but you also get a movie ticket worth up to $15 to boot. Even if you don’t like the cereal, you could cut out the movie ticket from the box and deposit the rest in the trash bin on the way out of the store and still be ahead of the game. Of course, I recommend donating any extra boxes of cereal you might buy to charity instead of throwing them out, but I think you catch my meaning.

I remember one year I filled our cupboards at home with boxes of cereal just for the free movies. It took us months and months of eating cereal nonstop to go through that stockpile!

General Mills is running a BOGO movie deal until January 31, 2017.

Daily Deals

Daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social are a great way to save money on entertainment and they also tend to offer movie discounts from time to time. It might pay off to subscribe to a few of these sites for your city and see what comes through your inbox. It doesn’t cost you anything to subscribe and you can automatically filter these emails into a special deals folder in your email account that you check every so often for movie discounts and other savings opportunities.

I wrote a guide to Canadian Daily Deals here.

Christmas Movie Promotions

Movies are a very popular Christmas gift - that's why there are special discount movie packages only available during the holidays. The Cineplex Holiday Gift Pack is the only one I know of that is still being offered every year. If you purchase a $40 gft card, then you will get a valuable coupon book with free SCENE points and valuable BOGO and discount coupons for both admission and concessions.

Even if you aren't buying to gift to someone else, it makes sense to buy at least one for yourself to get the coupons.​

Email Newsletters

Most major cinema chains have email newsletters you can subscribe to and these often contain printable coupons and notifications of other ways you can save money at the movies.

Newspapers And Magazines

Newspapers and magazines often promote new movies and are likely places to find movie coupons as well. Check the entertainment section of your local paper every now and then to see if they have any movie coupons you can clip.

Deal Blogs And Forums

Canadian deal blogs and forums are a good place to keep up on the latest deals in general but they also tend to report any nation-wide movie coupons that become available. Keep your ear to the ground and you are sure to find some decent movie discounts several times a year.

Cheap Movie Night

Many cinemas designate a single night every week where ticket prices are slashed to much more palatable prices. Cineplex, for instance, charges around $6.99 - $7.99 on Tuesdays instead of the usual $12-$15. That's nearly a 50% discount.

Restaurant Deals

Restaurants that are in close proximity to a major movie theatre will often offer great movie deals that package dinner with savings at a significant discount. For example, I once ate at a local restaurant that offered 4 adult admissions, 2 large pizzas, and alcoholic drinks for 4 people at a cost of only $60. In my opinion, a full dinner with drinks and a movie for $15 per person is an absolute steal!

Examples of other places I’ve seen offer movie deals are Boston Pizza and East Side Mario's. Occasionally, you may see restaurants attach a printed coupon to your receipt that gives a movie ticket discount so keep your eyes open for those.

Related: Eating Out At Restaurants: The Ultimate Guide To Spending Less

Discount Theatres

In many larger cities, there are discount theatres that either aren’t quite as state of the art or that show slightly older movies but are lot cheaper than the big chains. If you aren’t that picky and just want to get out to the movies, then these budget theatres are another great option to save some dough.

Group Movie Ticket Buying

Many companies will offer discounts on their products when a large order is placed with them and movie chains are no different. This is why Costco can sell movie passes at a big discount and why many of the other offers talked about here exist. If you can’t take advantage of any of those other offers, it may be possible to actually team up with a bunch of other everyday people and put in a large order yourselves to get a significant discount.

For a specific example of how this works, check out this group buy forum thread over at RedFlagDeals that has been running since 2007. It looks like the thread's originator has decided to stop running these group buys beginning in 2017 ten years later. He remains undecided if he will bring it back again sometime in the future or if another person will carry the torch. The cost per ticket through this group buy scheme is $9.30 for a single admission at Cineplex cinemas the last time it was run.

Drive-In Movies

Drive-in movie theatres are definitely becoming extinct, but they do still exist and they offer a unique movie-going experience that can’t be had anywhere else. Not only that, but going to the drive in is typically cheaper than going to the cinema as the price for seeing two, or sometimes even three recently released movies can be the same or less than the regular price of one movie ticket at the cinema. There are two such theatres within driving distance from my house and heading out to one of them during a warm summer evening makes for a great night of cheap entertainment!

Discounted Movie Gift Cards

Gift cards are huge in Canada and, if you know where to look, it is usually possible to buy gift cards at a bit of a discount off their face value.

I wrote a huge guide to getting discount gift cards over at Boomer & Echo here if you want to find out how to do it.

Senior And Child Discounts

Most movie theatres will offer a discount to children and seniors. While it might seem obvious to take advantage of these discounts, sometimes a person might not realize they are within a particular age group and the employee at the theatre might forget to ask. Make sure you check the age groups at whatever theatre you are visiting because they can vary from place to place.

Student Discounts

Student discounts aren’t always as direct as senior and child discounts. Often older students have the same admission price as adults but there may be other outside incentives offer through their school, through student memberships, or elsewhere to reduce the cost. You will typically have to show your student ID to get these discounts and they are often time limited promotions instead of ongoing fixed prices.

Matinees

Some cinemas have matinees which are afternoon showings of the same movies they show in the evenings. The cost of matinees are often reduced depending on the individual theatre. It is a popular thing during March break and during the summer for most theatres to offer matinees. Sometimes during March break they will even have $2 matinees which are much cheaper than the standard matinee pricing. So, if you can schedule your movie excursion during the afternoon, you might be able to save a few bucks in the process.

Giveaways

Movie ticket contests and giveaways are a pretty common thing on local radio stations. These types of contests often don’t have that many people competing to win so yours odds of winning are high. It can be worth your while to tune in on your drive to and from work and have the radio station’s phone number on your speed dial so you can quickly call in on cue when they announce a free movie ticket or other contest you are interested in.

Surveys

Like many establishments, cinemas value the feedback of their customers and will often provide you a survey code on your movie receipt so you can go online and fill out a survey. After completing these surveys, it is common place to either give you a discount coupon for your next visit or enter you for a chance to win free movies somehow. It is something worth trying at least once to see what kind of incentives they offer and how long the survey takes.

Free Advanced Movie Screenings

When a new movie is about to launch, they will sometimes offer advanced screenings for free in major cities to help create a buzz and to get some initial favourable reviews for the movie. This is a great way to get a free night out to the movies and to see some movies that you might otherwise have passed on.

How Have You Increased Your Movie Money?

Have you done any of the things I mentioned to save money at the movies yourself? Do you think I left anything out that would be helpful to others?

First published: June 18, 2012

Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links. We're letting you know because it's the right thing to do. Here’s a more detailed disclosure on how HTS makes money.

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Comments

Steve @ Grocery Alerts's picture

Another great idea is movie purchase stacking - i.e. buy a movie and get a free ticket.

Movies are so expensive these days - don't really have much time anymore with a little one.

Great post!

June 18, 2012 @ 6:21 pm
Robin
Robin's picture

From my March Telus invoice: In January we discontinued our PERKS coupons and promised to update our program so you could enjoy more deals at a discounted rate.

Just so you know.

June 18, 2012 @ 6:33 pm
SavingMentor
SavingMentor's picture

@Steve - Can you give me a better idea about what you mean by movie purchase stacking? Most of the buy one get one free opportunities I've seen come in the form of a coupon, certificate, or cereal promotion kind of like I mentioned in the article. Is there some other kind of buy one get free offer out there that I'm not aware of?

Also, for those that might like even more ideas for movie discounts, Steve wrote a similar article about movies a little while back.

@Robin - Thanks for the heads up. I actually remember reading that the PERKS program had been discontinued now that you mention it but it had totally slipped my mind. Thanks for the reminder! Maybe they'll bring it back or something similar in the future.

June 18, 2012 @ 7:53 pm
SavingMentor
SavingMentor's picture

That's right, they switched it to WagJag credits! Might be useful for those people who live in cities that have WagJag deals or when they offer the odd nation-wide deal. Maybe Wagjag will even have a great movie ticket discount sometime!

June 18, 2012 @ 10:58 pm
Monique Seibel's picture

Lots of helpful tips! Going to the movies, is one of my all time favorite past times. One of the survey websites I use, MySurvey.ca offer a range of different cinema gift cards, including cheaper chains such as Rainbow cinemas. Also, Webperspectives.ca also has cineplex gift-cards. Moreover, it only takes filling out 3-5 surveys to earn enough to redeem for a $10 gift card.

September 06, 2012 @ 9:12 pm
SavingMentor
SavingMentor's picture

Those are some great tips, thanks Monique. I've always wanted to get more in depth with online surveys but I always found they were more of a hassle than they were worth. I've read many other complaints by other about them as well.

The ones you are talking about sound like a decent deal though depending on how long it takes to fill out one of those 3-5 surveys and how hard it is to qualify for each survey. It stinks when you sign up for a survey program only to find there is only 1-2 surveys available a month or you get through 10 questions on the survey only be told you don't qualify for the entire survey for some reason or another.

September 06, 2012 @ 10:49 pm
Sherri
Sherri's picture
Also you can now buy the costco packages at costco.ca and redeem them immediately. just print and head to the movies!
June 24, 2014 @ 11:29 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture
Yes, that has been the case for quite some time. As mentioned in the article, they used to be a little bit more expensive when bought and printed online from Costco but, by the looks of it, that is no longer the case.
June 27, 2014 @ 9:22 am
T
T's picture

Hi,

Fyi - Costco great Escape movie package for adults is : 2 General Admissions, 2 Regular Soft Drinks,
and only 1 Regular Popcorn.

Note: Please be aware that delivery procedures for Cineplex E-tickets have changed.

This E-ticket will be e-mailed to you NO EARLIER THAN 48 HOURS from the time that the order is processed.

Voucher usually expires 2 years from the date of purchase.

May 24, 2016 @ 9:21 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

This article is a little out of date because it was written before Cineplex bought Empire Theaters. Costco used to cell a package for Empire Theatres that included 2 popcorns, not just 1.

May 27, 2016 @ 9:28 am
Jeremy
Jeremy's picture

> Voucher usually expires 2 years from the date of purchase.
Under Ontario law, gift cards cannot have expiry dates, so these vouchers should be valid forever. Well, as long as Cineplex exists as a business.

August 13, 2016 @ 5:21 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I'm pretty sure that vouchers aren't the same thing as gift cards because you don't load them with a cash balance. I'm pretty sure the law doesn't apply to vouchers, but don't quote me on that.

August 13, 2016 @ 8:02 pm
Crystal 's picture

Cineplex also has a secret shopper program, and you get to watch movies for free! I've never done it, but my BIL does. You have to apply, and they only 'hire' you if they are looking for people in your area. But, he said that you get to see a couple free movies a year!

December 29, 2016 @ 7:49 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Good tip - thanks!

January 02, 2017 @ 10:29 am
CanadianDaniel's picture

Luckily, we live close to the Image Cinemas Market Square (formerly Rainbow) here in Toronto. On Tuesdays the price is $5 all day for everyone (half the already discounted adult ticket price). Top-notch movies, too: My wife and I enjoyed Sing! last week and plan to see La La Land this Tuesday. You can buy tickets days in advance, which I recommend for flicks with Academy Award potential.

January 10, 2017 @ 10:35 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Nice - we don't have any small players in our city.

January 10, 2017 @ 10:46 am
Sheryl Smolkin's picture

Very comprehensive summary. One thing you did not mention is seniors prices. And of course we don't have to worry about babysitters and most suburban Toronto malls still have free parking so its still a cheap night our.

January 10, 2017 @ 10:41 am
Tiffany Kuhl
Tiffany Kuhl's picture

Three other things.

Depending on where you live, you can download the Carrot Rewards App (https://www.carrotrewards.ca/en/) and complete healthy living challenges for Scene points.

You can also download the Timeplay App and play games within the theatre just before the movie starts, you can usually win extra Scene points.

If you have a disability or a child with a disability, you can apply for an Access Card (http://www.access2card.ca/programinformation/), this gets the support person in free (or the parent) who accompanies the cardholder.

January 10, 2017 @ 11:34 am
lori n
lori n's picture

My favourite way to go to the movies is for free. I like to attend movie premieres... often contests in the local paper or online at your favourite radio station they are giving away premiere passes. Or check out movie websites such as www.tribute.ca. there are tons of free movie passes out there so just have a look!

January 16, 2017 @ 11:42 pm
Anthony
Anthony's picture

The Cineplex Holiday Gift Pack is not as good a deal as it sounds. Most of the coupons are only good Jan-Mar (not even a full 3 months--can't remember exact dates), Sunday to Thursday.

January 24, 2017 @ 12:41 pm

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