The only thing nicer than enjoying buttery popcorn and a new film is doing so while saving money. Movie theater concessions are infamously pricey, which is why most of us have fond memories of trying to see how many bags of chips and bottles of soda we could smuggle into the theater in our purses and pockets. There’s some great news for those of us whose moral codes have evolved — there are plenty of ways to save on movie snacks without smuggling them in.
1. Join Rewards Programs
Many popular chains like Regal Cinemas, Marcus Theatres, Regency Theatres, Cobb Theatres and AMC Theatres offer points-based loyalty programs. Through these programs, you can earn free concession upgrades, free refills and free snacks. Some of these programs also give out special birthday freebies, like free popcorn. Plus, many of these programs allow you to earn discounts on movie tickets, giving you more to spend on concessions.
If you’re a frequent moviegoer, it might also be worth your while to invest in paid rewards clubs or premium membership at theaters you frequent.
2. Use a Cash Back Credit Card
Even when the theaters themselves don’t offer deals, you can still generate rewards for yourself using a cash back or rewards credit card. You can check some of the best credit cards for rewards to find the right one for you. (Make sure your credit score is high enough to qualify before applying for a new card. You can check two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)
3. Buy Them Elsewhere
Generally, theaters sell candy and chocolate at marked-up prices. A box of Sour Patch Kids, which can be purchased at most stores for $1 to $1.50, can cost around $4 at most movie theaters. Even if you’re not planning to break the rules, treat yourself to snacks before or after the movie to avoid buying them at the theater.
4. Buy Large & Share
Splitting the cost of a large popcorn is generally cheaper than buying several small ones. This is an especially good option for families with children. Bonus sharing hack: Eliminate fighting over the popcorn, and the need to pass it around, by bringing your own bags to divvy it up.
5. Change the Movie Time
Instead of seeing movies when you’ll be super hungry, plan to see the show before or after a meal. Having a full meal before visiting the theater or making a reservation right after the movie can help curb your cravings for snacks.
6. Order Snacks Beforehand
Some cinemas, like AMC, allow you to order snacks and drinks ahead of time. You can pick up your treats right before the movie. This is perfect for curbing a sudden craving to upgrade that medium-sized popcorn to a large.
7. Use Your AARP Membership
At Regal Cinemas, AARP members receive $3 off any popcorn and soft drink combo when they present their AARP membership card and Regal Crown Club card (it’s free to join). It also doesn’t hurt to ask other theaters if they offer discounts, whether you’re in AARP or still a student.
8. Become an Email Subscriber
Some theater and cinema chains, such as Cinemark, send out weekly discounts and deals, including coupons for concessions. Check your local theater’s website for information on email subscriptions.
9. Check the Combo Deals
Most theaters have deals that package drinks and snacks together in a deal-saving combination. Combo deals can be tempting, but avoid getting sucked into spending more than you wanted just because it seems like a good deal. For example, avoid certain combos if you opt to drink water instead of soda since you can get a cup of tap water for free.
10. Check Deal Sites
Apps like Groupon often offer ticket packages that come with popcorn. You can also find deals on movie tickets themselves.