How to save money: At the movies

There are more films on this year, but the movies can be expensive.

There are more films on this year, but the movies can be expensive. Photo: Getty

The cinema might be more expensive than you remember, with average ticket prices skyrocketing 21 per cent in the past three years.

Many adult prices are now over $25.

Here are some ways to save money at the movies.

Pick your cinema

Cinemas thrive on what’s known as dynamic pricing, where ticket costs vary wildly between movies, time slots and cinema type in ways that can be difficult for consumers to untangle.

That makes it all too easy to overpay for a ticket, especially when you’re more worried about where and when the movie is than which cinema you’re actually shopping with.

  • Check multiple cinemas in your area online before heading in to find the best deal
  • No-frills cinemas offer the best prices. But if you want higher resolutions or better sound, consider going at an off-peak time or waiting until after opening weekend
  • If you’re eligible for a concession like a student or seniors discount make sure you use it. The savings can be sizeable, particularly after price hikes in recent years.

Unpacking loyalty

The key to saving money at the movies in Australia is understanding how the various loyalty schemes work, because cinemas have begun to compete aggressively on these programs.

Even the traditional “cheap Tuesday” has now been rolled into loyalty clubs, with most of the major chains now only offering those discounts after you sign up to their scheme.

Major chains like Hoyts, Village, Palace Cinemas and Event Cinemas each offer discounts for members through points-based systems that reward you for going to the movies regularly.

But beware, not all loyalty programs are created equal. with some being free to sign up and others coming with an annual fee that could change the calculus for you and your family.

For example, Hoyts has a premium loyalty program that costs $15 a year in return for a 25 per cent discount on tickets and 10 per cent off at their concession stand.

That sounds like a good deal, but keep in mind that you’ll need to buy 3 tickets over that time for the discount to pay for itself.

And if those movies are cheaper at another cinema, then you could find yourself worse off than if you shopped around without paying a fee.

By contrast, Palace Cinemas charges $20 a year for its premium loyalty scheme, but offers a free ticket on sign up, meaning the fee pays for itself immediately if you’re heading there.

  • Loyalty clubs offer significant savings, but make sure any fees you pay are worth it
  • Join the club, but don’t be loyal – always ask yourself whether a cheaper ticket is available elsewhere, even if you’re getting a discount from a particular cinema
  • Many clubs, more savings; movie enthusiasts can join all the clubs to maximise savings, allowing you to shop between each of them and still get good value.

Avoid the concession stand

Cinemas make their margins at concession stands, selling cheap food and drinks with little to no nutritional value at extreme mark-ups.

They also often prevent you from taking in your own food in a bid to force you to spend.

Avoid the squeeze by bringing your own drink bottle. They won’t begrudge you water.

Also consider eating before or after you go – after all, if you’re going to pay for a meal out you can probably do much better than a $10 tub of popcorn.

  • Bringing your own food isn’t allowed, but you can take your own water bottle
  • Avoid parking fees – finish your journey on public transport if you’re in the city.
Topics: Movies
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