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Movie Experiences Are Expensive: How to Handle The High Costs

This is a post written by Avishai Shuter, and up-and-coming zoologist who lives in his parents house while on the cusp of getting a job with the Bronx Zoo.

Last week, the eighth installment of the Harry Potter movie series came to theaters met by a sea of costumed fans. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 earned a record breaking $168.6 million in its first weekend. (Daniel’s note: When adjusting for inflation, it didn’t beat the Dark Knight!)

Amazing! you might say. But you forget that tickets for this film cost $12 in New York City (and that’s for the outdated 2D version- the IMAX 3D experience costs more like $18.50).

Movies have sneakily become one of the most expensive activities you can take part in; it seems like I’m shocked every time I see how much a ticket costs. Early in the 20th century, you could buy a ticket and two snacks for a nickel. Today, a date at the movies can cost almost $50 (2 tickets at $12 each, 2 medium sodas at $4.50 each, and a medium popcorn at $9). A family trip to the movies? Forget about it – you’re talking close to, if not over $100. So how can you take the edge off this painful funtivity?

I go to the movies a lot (since June I’ve been to the movies 6 times), so I’m pretty much an expert. I’ve picked up a few tricks I’ll share here in order to help you guys out.

Snack Attack

One of the worst parts of going to the movies is my eternal struggle against movie popcorn. I love the stuff more than bears love slow hikers covered in honey. Eating movie popcorn is a double whammy. On one side, its super expensive, and on the other, a small has over 600 calories (a large has over 1,000!). But, on the plus side that means that a small only costs you about $0.0006667 per calorie! Talk about a steal. Movie food is crazy expensive and according to some sources, theaters make an 85% profit off of concessions.

How Should You Handle High Concession Costs?

Buy either the popcorn or a drink, never both. I’ll repeat that – NEVER BOTH. It simply gets too expensive, so pick your poison carefully. Then, if you’re daring enough, sneak in your own food or drink. I try to opt for a healthy drink (usually juice of some kind) to counteract the popcorn.

Tickets are Crazy Expensive!

Movie tickets have become insanely expensive and I’m not quite sure why. It doesn’t cost theaters any more money to show a film now then five or ten years ago. Maybe the uncomfortable seats are stuffed with money, who knows?

How Can Buy Cheaper Tickets?

Look for online and any other deals you can find. Whenever you see a LivingSocial or Groupon deal for movie tickets, don’t hesitate. You’ll save money in the long run. Buying two tickets for $9 is totally worth it, so go for it (and if you get 3 friends to sign up. Additionally, many theaters will offer cheap tickets for any future movie if you buy them in a package. These packages usually end up being about $7 a ticket. Or you could just try being old or a child.

Daniel’s note: Visa Signature also has a 2 for 1 deal each Friday through September. You have to buy tickets and use them on the same day, but if you like to start off the weekend at the theater, this can be a big money saver!

How Else Can You Save?

I recently got a Regal Crown Card, and it’s a great deal. It’s free to sign up, all they need is your name. Then you swipe it when you buy snacks and tickets, and you get points equal to the amount of money you spend. Then, when you rack up enough points, you get free stuff (snacks and tickets). So, get your Regal Card (or whatever your theater’s equivalent is)- if you’re going to the movies anyway, there’s no reason not to get something back while your wallet is being gouged by giant, evil, faceless corporations.

The prices set by movie theaters have their own place in my nightmares next to the girl from The Ring. I imagine this is a common phenomenon, so I hope that my experiences have helped you conquer your film fears. If you have any other tips, I’d love to hear them so I can share them with my friends and pass them off as my own ideas. See you at the movies!



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