Chicago Moviegoing on a Budget: 9 Trusty Tips from an Expert

Chicago Moviegoing on a Budget: 9 Trusty Tips from an Expert

As all of you know by now, I see many movies in the theater. Too many? One could certainly make a case for that. One of the questions I typically get is: where do you find the money to pay for all these movies?

Well, up until about six months ago, I used this excellent service called MoviePass. It was $35/month for unlimited movies in theaters. The only caveats: (1) you could only see one a day; (2) you had to wait 24 hours between each movie; and (3) you could only see each movie once. Not a bad deal, right? I used MoviePass for over 3 years, and then – without warning – the service dropped my current plan and would only allow me to continue if I signed up for their new plan, which cost $99/month. Outraged, and feeling my loyalty discarded, I refused to sign up for a new plan that, overnight, was over double the amount I currently paid. So, bye bye, MoviePass.

I’ve been lost in the wilderness ever since. You’d think I would at least get into some press screenings, given the blog and all, but no. When you’re having to pay for as many movies as I do – at this point, it’s not even a choice, more like an addiction – you have to get creative. I’ve done the homework, figured it out, and here some handy tips on how to see lots of movies without breaking the bank:

(1) Non-chain theaters. For me, the go-to theater is the Pickwick in Park Ridge. It has four screens, will often show every kids movie, and having recently renovated, with new comfy chairs and better speakers, it offers a first-class viewing experience. Best part? All shows before 5pm are only $6, and all shows after that are only $8. Compare that to the bigger chains, which charge up to $12.

(2) AMC. The biggest player in town, with theaters everywhere and new acquisitions always being made. Like most theaters, they have student, military and senior price discounts, but for the rest of us, the best time to go is anytime before noon – any day of the week. They usually won’t have shows before then on the weekdays (foiled!), but they certainly will on weekends. Tickets are only $6 before noon.

(3) Carmike/Muvico. $5 tickets all day on Tuesday! I’ve made it a weekly thing. Tuesday night is Muvico night. Bonus: small popcorn and drink are $2/each, mediums of both are only $3, and larges are only $4. Plus, every day between 4-5:30pm, there is a twilight price of $5.75.

(4) Cinemark. I usually frequent the Evanston theater – it has the perfect mix of independent and studio films. Plenty of deals abound: first matinee of every day is $6.25. Mondays are Senior Days – with $6.25 tickets. And, all-day on Tuesday, tickets are $5.75.

(5) Regal. Depending on the day, Regal theaters in and around Chicago offer “Discount Days,” where tickets only cost $5-6. For Webster Place, Crystal Lake, and City North, that day is Tuesday. Others like Lincolnshire offer $6 tickets every day before noon.

(6) ShowPlace ICON. This fairly swank theater on Roosevelt may seem pricey on first glance, but they have plenty of deals if you join their EXTRAS Program. For members (don’t worry, it’s free to join), all shows are $5 on weekends before noon – plus holidays.  This even includes the recliner seats and upstairs VIP 21+ experience.  All shows before 6pm are $6.50 every day, including holidays. And, weeknights (Mon-Thurs), tickets are $8.50 for adults and $6.50 for seniors.  Plus, free 46oz popcorn on Tuesdays. And, free drink upsizing and 50% off 3D shows daily.

(7) Join memberships. Most theaters offer membership perks where you get points for money spent that can be redeemed for concessions or tickets. ShowPlace ICON has a great rewards program, as shown above. AMC has the Stubs rewards program, which gives you money for points earned, free upsizing, and lets you buy tickets/concessions in a separate, roped-off line. Logan Theater partners with Spring Rewards to give you $10 off every $200 spent. ArcLight members get $1 off every ticket purchased online. These memberships also usually help waive the convenience fee if you purchase tickets on sites like Fandango.

(8) Download mobile apps. Easy to do and worth it – not just for looking up showtimes or pulling up tickets on your phone, but also to receive monthly coupons.

(9) iTunes. Okay, not a theatrical experience, but I’d be remiss not to mention the weekly movie deal. From Friday to Monday, iTunes will offer one of its movies for purchase for only $4.99. They’re usually older flicks – this week’s pick was 1987’s Predator – but still a great way to spend a weekend night in, saving even more money!

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