Remember those dinner-and-a-movie nights that were commonplace when you were dating? Maybe you kept the tradition going when you were married and before the kids came along.
But once you have kids, a fact about this simple evening out becomes painfully obvious: dinner and a movie is an expensive night out! Especially the movie.
My wife and I long ago gave up the concept of dinner and a movie, holding on to just the movie part. It’s just too expensive to do both, especially now that our kids are teenagers, and well past the point of low cost kiddy meals or reduced admission. We’ve also figured out a few ways to save money at the movies for times that we go each year.
For those many times in between when we do want to see movies, we revert to Movie Night In.
The cost to see a movie at a theater
I don’t know what the cost of the movies is where you live, but here in Atlanta where I hang my hat, the cost for four “adults” (that includes kids over the age of 11) is $46. That’s just the price of admission to the theater; everything else is extra. And that’s in Atlanta, a city notorious for it’s reasonable cost of living.At the concession stand, Snack Combo #2 is a large popcorn with two large drinks for $18.50, which is plenty for a family of four. You can add candy at $4-$5 a box, but we never do.
That brings the total cost for a stereo-typical trip to the movies, with popcorn and a drink, to $64.50 for a family of four. Thank goodness that they don’t add sales tax on top of that!
I don’t mind doing that every couple of months or so, but if you do that twice a month, you’re looking at $129 a month. That’s $1,548 in a year! And that’s if you don’t order candy too, or have dinner beforehand.
That’s where movie night in comes into the picture.
Inexpensive at-home movies are cheaper and more available than ever
Blockbuster Video is just about gone these days, but there’s always Netflix if you want a good, inexpensive late run movie for movie night in. And if you have cable TV, there’s usually some sort of on-demand option that lets you rent movies for a day or two for something like $4 to $8.
We like Redbox in our house for a variety of reasons. First, they have rental boxes located in almost every retail outlet in town. Second, they have an excellent selection of late run movies. Third, the movies cost only $1.28 to rent (including sales tax). Fourth, if you decide you want to hold onto the movie for another day or two, they just add another $1.28 to the rental for each day. Which brings up the fifth reason we like Redbox: there are no late fees. Perfect for movie night in!
At a $1.28 per movie, we can rent two at home—a double feature—for just $2.56!
So let’s take a moment here and do a price comparison. Do I want to take my family of four to the movie theater and pay $46, or do we want to do movie night in and watch a movie we rent from Redbox for $1.28?
By choosing the Redbox option, we save $44.72 on every movie we watch. That’s a lot of money to do other things with! And it looks like a deal to me. But there are other advantages to movie night in—some of them financial, some of them more on the order of creature comfort.
Concessions vs. your kitchen at home with movie night in
Let’s revisit $18.50 for a large popcorn and two large drinks. I love movie theater popcorn! And I know it isn’t good for you, but sometimes you just gotta have it. But I do cringe at the thought paying so much money for what I know I can get at the grocery store for a fraction of the price.
For movie night in, you can buy a 2 liter bottle of Coke and a couple of bags of microwave popcorn at the grocery store for $5 or $6 total. Better yet, we have one of those stove top popcorn makers (ours is the Back-to-Basics Stove Top Popper) that makes popcorn that’s curiously close to the movie theater version. You can buy movie theater popcorn butter, but we sometimes use a little bit of melted butter. It’s so good that we don’t miss the stuff at the movie theater.
And if you do want candy, you can get the same boxes that movie theaters sell for $4 or $5 for about a dollar at Target, Walgreens or other popular retail chains.
You’ll have your Coke (or other drink of your choice), movie theater quality popcorn, candy—and virtually any other snack you like with your movies—right in your own kitchen. All at just a fraction of what you’ll pay at a movie theater concession stand.
Movie Night In means all the conveniences of home
Instead of a movie theater seat, you can sprawl out comfortably on your own sofa or loveseat. Or, if you’re like me, you can lie on the floor with a pile of pillows—and no movie theater attendant will shine a flashlight in your face and tell you to do otherwise.
Then there’s the ever-present benefit from the pause button. In a movie theater, the need to refill a drink or to make nature call means you’ll miss a few minutes of the movie. At home, with your remote control in hand, you can stop the movie for any reason, take care of business and not miss a minute of what you paid to see.
At home, there are no lines to stand in at either the ticket window or the concessions stand. You can watch a movie a second time if you like, or you can rewind/reverse the movie to see parts you didn’t quite get on the first try.
And when you’re ready, you can either head directly to bed, or just fall asleep where you’re sitting! There’s no ride home—you’re already there.
What do you think about movie theater prices? Are you using movie night in to deal with it, or some other techniques?