I love going to the movies. What I’m not in love with, however, is the cost. Every year, box office prices go up, and the price of snacks and beverages is absolutely ridiculous.

So, what’s a movie-lover to do when the urge for popcorn and a movie strikes? Theaters generally don’t make coupons or other discounts readily available, but it’s possible to lower the cost of a movie without doing anything against the rules (I’m talking about those who sneak in their own snacks).

Heading to the movies can be a totally guilt-free activity, whether you bring the kids, or are out on a date.

How to Save Money at the Movie Theater

Go during off times.

Opt for less popular times, such as early bird and matinee showings, when theaters often mark down the price of tickets.

Small and independently owned theaters in your area may also charge less at designated times, such as on a less popular weekday night.

Buy at the Box Office

Buying tickets online is convenient, right? Too bad you get charged a fee for that convenience.

Most booking sites charge $1 to $2 for you to use the service, making your tickets even more expensive.

Even if you want to snag tickets for a hot movie in advance, head right to the box office and don’t pay added fees.

Find a Late-Run Theater

Instead of seeing movies when they first come out, I can catch them after they’ve been released for a few weeks at a greatly reduced price.

This means that I sometimes have to wait to see a movie I want to check out, but often, it’s worth the savings.

It’s also a great way to re-watch a flick that you loved in the first-run theater.

Skip the 3D and IMAX

We all know that 3D movies are the newest gimmick to get you to flock to the theater, but you must pay a premium price.

If it doesn’t matter much to you, inquire about a 2D showing instead. It will save you money, and is better for kids who can’t keep the glasses on the entire time.

You’ll also pay more for an IMAX movie, so make sure the flick is really worth seeing in 3D on the big screen or you’ll be forking over major dough to go.

Eat Beforehand

Sneaking food into the theater is against the rules, so I won’t advise you to do that. But if you’ve got the time, grab something to eat before you set foot in the theater.

That way, you’re not overwhelmed by temptation to buy nachos and hot dogs – premium snacks that cost a premium price.

Instead, make a pact with yourself that you’ll grab a drink and one snack to stay within budget.

Sign Up With the Theater Online

Purchasing your movie tickets from a second-party website might be super convenient, but you might not be getting the best deal.

Sign up for newsletters and promos with your neighborhood theater directly via their website. Also follow them on their social media accounts, including Facebook and Twitter.

When you book tickets, you’ll avoid extra fees, and you might even get a heads up about cheap movie days, special discounts, and coupons for concessions like popcorn, drinks, and candy to relieve some of the burden on your wallet.

Buy in Bulk

You probably didn’t know that theaters often discount bulk tickets for condo associations, community groups, companies, and even to individuals. Since you’re promising to fill up a set number of seats, theaters are usually more than happy to offer a percentage discount for groups over 20 people.

You can do this yourself to reserve cheap seats for a large group seeing the same movie, or you can check with community groups – such as grocery stores and gas stations – which is perfect if you only want a couple of tickets, but you still want the discounted price.

Check for Specialty Discounts

Are you a student or a senior? Are you an AAA member or do you plan on purchasing stuff online? You can snag discounted or even free movie tickets just by using the information that you already have.

Tons of theaters offer discounts for both students and seniors, providing that you can show an ID when you purchase the tickets. You can get discounts based on your affiliation with certain associations.

Final Word

Regardless of how you slice it, heading to the movies can be pretty pricey. But by being smart and finding ways to save a few dollars here and there, you won’t have to skip the latest blockbuster because of a tight personal budget.