These days, the movie theater enterprise is so different that those who remember how it used to be can hardly get over it. Specifically, it used to be that a family who wanted to go see a movie could do so for $20 to $30 total, including the tickets and food, especially if they brought their own snacks. Those who went to a midday matinee would pay even less, or even be treated to a double feature.


These days, however, the movie theater experience is very, very different. Gone are the days in which you could bring your own snacks – and we’ve long ago said goodbye to the $5 movie ticket.


In fact, if a family of four wants to see a new movie on a Friday night, the head of the family now has to save no less than $150 for that night out – saving sometimes for months before saving enough to go. This is especially true of middle class families struck by the 2008 recession, as they are still recovering and are finding it difficult to justify spending so much on a single movie night.


There are ways to make the experience better while saving money.


Movie Clubs

As with any other retail outlet, movie theaters often have movie clubs that you can join. While some theaters offer free registration, most charge an annual or monthly membership fee, and if you join then you typically receive special discounts on food and tickets. Some of the benefits typically included in a club membership are:


  • Free small popcorn
  • Buy-one-get-one (BOGO) specials
  • Fifty percent off coupons
  • Special days on which you can receive discounted movie tickets 


Additionally, some clubs offer point accumulation or rewards for every dollar you spend. Once you accumulate so many points, you become eligible for a specific offer. Often, these are tiered systems so that you can save your points for something better should you not want to partake in the reward offered by the lowered point levels.


Families that do not go to the movies at least once a month should do some math before signing up for the membership – even if the membership price is reduced or even free.


  Determine if a movie club makes sense for your family:

  1. Estimate how many times a year you go to the movies.
  2. Estimate how much you spend each time to go, and don’t forget to include food and drink expenses, such as for the $5 small movie size popcorn, or the $5 soda per person, the nachos and candies, and even the gas to get there.
  3. Add up the expenses and determine whether the discounts you receive does actually offset the movie club registration fee enough to warrant paying for it.


While families that go to the movies often can benefit from the discounts that offset the membership fee, families that don’t will spend more. Do you really want to pay $20 or more for a club when you are only getting $5 worth of discounts once a year?  Probably not.


After all, making sure you understand how the club works is crucial so ensure you know whet you’re getting into before you pay for it. That is what makes fiscal sense.