How to Spend Less at the Movies

12 tricks for saving money without sacrificing Hollywood entertainment.

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I'm a big movie fan and watch lots of movies. I can watch DVDs very cheaply or even free with Redbox or Netflix but I still like to go to the movies. For some movies, I just can't wait for them to come out on DVD. Also, big, action-packed summer blockbusters are a better experience seen on the large screen at the theater than on my small laptop screen. Here are some ways to keep the cost of going to the movies down.

[In Pictures: 8 Painless Ways to Save Money.]

• Go to the matinee. These are usually a few dollars cheaper than the evening shows. Check to see if there special showtimes that are even further discounted. I recently paid just $4 to see a movie because it was the first showtime of the day.

• Wait for the movie to come out to the dollar theater. These seem to be going away but if there is one near you it is an option to consider.

• Buy discounted tickets. Some theaters give you a discount if you buy tickets in bulk. Also you may be able to buy discounted tickets through your employer.

• Ask for a discount. Most theaters offer discounts for seniors and students and there may be additional discounts available as well.

• Buy movie gift cards off eBay or elsewhere. These usually sell for about a 20 percent discount and I have had no problems using them.

• Become a mystery shopper. As a mystery shopper I’m sometimes paid to watch a movie. That is even better than free.

• Go to free movies. Sometimes free tickets are available to sneak previews or special showings of movies. I've done this and just had to fill out a short questionnaire about the movie.

[Visit the U.S. News Personal Finance site for more insight and money management tips.]

• Another source of free movies is kid's movie programs that some theater chains offer during the summer. These movies are free but are usually movies from the previous year and have a morning start time.

• Don’t go to the 3D version of the movie. I’m sure many people will disagree with me but I’d rather watch the 2D movie anyway so there is no point in paying extra for the 3D.

• Concessions can easily cost more than the tickets. An easy way to save here is to eat before attending the movie and not buy any concessions.

• If you want to eat during the movie bring your own snacks. AMC used to allow this but changed their policy last year. Now, most theaters have a policy against outside food but often it is not strictly enforced.

• Join the chain's club. Some chains give you free popcorn on certain days of the week with your card. Also your club card earns you points for purchasing tickets and concessions that can be redeemed for free tickets and concessions. Additionally, when you use your card you are usually given a coupon for a small discount on concession purchases.

These tips you should be able to help you significantly reduce the cost of going to the movies.

Andy Hough writes about frugality and living well on a small income at