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.
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 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.
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
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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