Going out to the movies doesn't have to break the bank. (Anncapicture via Pixabay)
Going out to the movies doesn't have to break the bank. (Anncapicture via Pixabay)

The next big blockbuster may be about to hit movie theaters, but it doesn’t have to hit your wallet. Whether you’re looking for a cheap date or an affordable family outing, here are a few tips to save dough at the show this summer.

MICHIGAN—Costs are rising everywhere, but your evening out doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are a few ways to make the most of your next night at the movies:

Theater Rewards Programs and Special Offers

Several movie theaters offer exclusive rewards programs that provide customer discounts. (anncapicture via Pixabay)

Okay, so the “join our rewards program” advertisements during movie previews are a little annoying. But this is by far the best way to save money every time you settle into a theater seat. Several theater chains in Michigan have no-cost rewards programs or special memberships for a small fee—both of which will save you big money in the long run.

Here’s the run-down:

AMC Theatres

Locations: Auburn Hills, Clinton Township, Dearborn, Fort Gratiot, Holland, Livonia, Ludington, Madison Heights, Saginaw, Sterling Heights, Traverse City, Walker

AMC Theatres’ in-house rewards program is called AMC Stubs, and it includes three different types of rewards programs plus a discount day.

All members save on Discount Tuesdays, which provide weekly savings. Also included are free birthday gifts, waived online ticket fees, and a program that awards points for every purchase. Earn a $5 reward for every 5000 points—which is applicable to tickets, concessions, on-demand movies, and merchandise. 

  • The free version of their rewards program is AMC Stubs Insider.
  • AMC Stubs Premiere is $15 per year and includes all the benefits of AMC Stubs Insider—plus priority lanes at the box office or concessions and free size upgrades on concessions.
  • A-List is $19.95 per month and includes all the benefits of AMC Stubs Premiere, with the addition of up to three free movies per week. If you see more than two movies per month, this service pays for itself.

For more information on the AMC Stubs program, visit the website.

Celebration Cinema (Studio C)

Locations: Benton Harbor, Grandville, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Mount Pleasant, Muskegon, Okemos, Portage

  • Celebration Cinema’s in-house rewards program is called C Rewards, which includes a points-based rewards program. Members there earn 10 points for every dollar spent at Celebration Cinema, with a $5 voucher offered for qualifying purchases after 500 points are collected. Members also can access discount ticket pricing every Tuesday and Sunday.
  • If a C Rewards member earns $750 worth of points in a single calendar year, they become a Celebrity Member, which gives them free butter, a free movie ticket for their birthday, and special access to prizes and screenings.
  • C Rewards VIP is a $19.95/month. Members can see up to three free movies per week, with no online ticketing fees. VIP members also have access to an exclusive presale window.

For more information on C Rewards, visit the website.

Cinemark Movie Theatres

Locations: Flint, Taylor, Ypsilanti

  • Cinemark Movie Rewards includes two tiers: the free tier is Cinemark Movie Fan, which includes a point-based rewards program where customers can exchange accumulated points for movie tickets, concession discounts and other merchandise. Members can also access discounts on Tuesdays and catch occasional advance screenings of select films.
  • The Cinemark Movie Club is a $9.99/month service that provides all the benefits of the Cinemark Movie Fan program, plus one free movie ticket per month, with unused ticket credits rolling over to the next month. Cinemark Movie Club memberships also offer member pricing for one additional ticket, waived online ticket fees, and various concession discounts.
  • Cinemark Movie Club members who see at least 25 movies or purchase at least 60 tickets in a calendar year earn Movie Club Platinum, which offers two free bonus credits immediately after qualifying, plus a greater concession discount and member pricing for additional tickets.

For more information on Cinemark Movie Rewards, visit the website.

Emagine Entertainment

Locations: Birch Run, Birmingham, Canton, Farmington Hills, Hartland, Macomb, Novi, Rochester Hills, Royal Oak, Saline, Saginaw, Woodhaven

  • Emagine Entertainment Rewards include two tiers. The free tier is Emagine Loyalty, which includes a point-based rewards program. Members earn one point for every dollar spent, which can be redeemed for free concessions (50 points for one small popcorn or small beverage) or free tickets (100 points). Members can also gain access to ticket discounts, free popcorn on Tuesdays, free parking, and a free small popcorn on their birthdays.
  • Emagine Extras is $12.75/year and upgrades several features from Emagine Rewards. Customers earn rewards 10% faster in addition to free movie tickets on their birthdays. In addition to the other benefits from Emagine Loyalty, Emagine Extras also includes $1 refills on popcorn buckets, concession discounts, access to special screenings and no online fees.

For more information on Emagine Rewards, visit the website.

Goodrich Quality Theaters

Locations: Battle Creek, Cadillac, Grand Haven, Hastings, Holland, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lowell, Oxford, Port Huron, Three Rivers

Goodrich’s movie rewards is another free, points-based rewards system which earns discounts on food and drinks. Points are accrued through 5% of the value of every purchase on ticket and concessions. Members also access exclusive promotions and email offers.

For more information, visit the website.

MJR Digital Cinemas

Locations: Adrian, Brighton, Chesterfield, Clinton Township, Southgate, Sterling Heights, Troy, Warren, Waterford Township, Westland

  • MJR Premier Rewards include two tiers. The free tier is MJR Premier Free, which includes a point-based rewards program where members get discounts and earn one point for every dollar spent, which can be saved up and redeemed for free concessions or free tickets. MJR Premier Free members also gain access to ticket discounts and free popcorn on Tuesdays.
  • MJR Premier+ is a $12/year service that upgrades several features from Premier Free. Points are accumulated 10% faster and can be redeemed for discount concession vouchers. Premier+ also includes free birthday tickets, no online fees, and other exclusive promotions.

For more information on MJR Premier Rewards, visit the website.

NCG Cinemas

Locations: Alma, Battle Creek, Coldwater, Grand Blanc, Greenville, Lansing, Lapeer, Midland, Owosso

  • My NCG Reward$ is another free, points-based rewards program where members can earn NCG Cash. Members earn 10 points for every dollar spent on tickets and concessions, with a $5 voucher offered for qualifying purchases after 5,000 points are collected.

For more information on My NCG Reward$, visit the website.

NorthStar Cinemas

Locations in Michigan: Rockford, Whitehall

  • With Star Rewards, members can earn discounted and free concession items with every purchase. Members earn 12-20 points per movie ticket. Freebies and discounts can be redeemed after 100 points—escalating to some bigger rewards valued at up to 500 points.

For more information on Star Rewards, visit the website.

Regal Theatres

Locations: Lansing, Walled Lake

  • Regal Crown Club is a free, points-based rewards program where every dollar spent on tickets or concessions earns members 100 credits—which can then be cashed in for more movie tickets and concession snacks, in addition to digital downloads, posters, and other exclusive Crown Club offers.

Visit the website for more information. 

Sperry’s Moviehouse

Locations: Holland, Port Huron

  • For every dollar spent, Sperry’s Moviehouse Rewards members earn one point, which can be cashed in at the concession stand or the upstairs Dinnerhouse. The program is free, and all members receive a coupon for a free small popcorn on their birthdays and sign-up anniversaries.

For more information on Moviehouse Rewards, visit the website.

Thomas Theatre Group

Locations: Escanaba, Marquette, Quinnesec

  • Thomas Theatre Silver Rewards is a free, points-based rewards program where members can earn a chance to watch every 11th movie for free. A Silver Rewards card also provides access to member-only specials, free soda refills, advanced screenings, and other promotional offers.

For more information, visit the website.

UEC Theatres

Location: Hillsdale

  • UEC’s Loyalty Rewards allows customers to accumulate points for free tickets, popcorn, and drinks. Members earn one point for every dollar spent on concessions, as well as another 6-10 points per ticket purchase. Rewards can be redeemed after 200 points have been acquired.

For more information on the UEC Loyalty Rewards program, visit the website.

Other Strategies to Save

Rewards programs aren’t the only way to save cash at the movie theater. (Alex Litvin via Unsplash)

Matinees and Tuesdays

Like any business, movie theaters certain times and days associated with slower business. And if you’re looking to save money, you can use this time wisely. Most people want to see movies on Fridays and Saturdays, meaning theaters tend to be a bit emptier during the rest of the week. Tuesday in particular is often the slowest day for most movie theaters—and many provide heavy discounts to incentivize more business. Most theaters also offer cheaper tickets for matinee shows in the mornings or early afternoons.

Student, Senior, and Military Discounts

Cheaper tickets aren’t just for kids. Many theaters also offer discounts tickets for students, seniors, and military members. Double check ahead of time: Some places only offer these discounts on certain days.

Streaming Alternatives

With everyone staying home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, online streaming services are booming. And if you’re not opposed to ditching the movie theater experience, you’ve got plenty of at-home options available—though you might have to wait a week or two to get the chance to watch.

  • Tubi is a free service (with ads) that includes movies and TV shows, including movies that recently played in theaters. If you’ve got a library card, attend college, or work at a college, you can also watch plenty of recently released movies on the Kanopy service—which is also completely free. 
  • Fandango’s Vudu service offers both free movies as well as films for rental and purchase. You may also already be paying for a streaming service that also carries a library of hundreds of newly released movies— including Amazon’s Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney+, Hulu, and HBOMax.
  • Movie theaters themselves are picking up on the popularity of streaming services too: AMC Theatres and Regal Theatres stream movies through their apps for a monthly subscription fee.

Online Coupons

Don’t forget to periodically check Groupon, Living Social, RetailMeNot, and Honey for discounts on movie tickets—including through other online ticketing services like Fandango and MovieTickets.com.

Gift Card Discounts

Sometimes retailers sell gift cards to movie theaters at a steep discount. Watch out for recurring coupon offers through your Kroger Card. Movie buffs can also buy heavily discounted gift cards through online resale services such as Raise, Card Cash, and Cardpool to help cut back on ticket costs. 

Price Club Perks

If you’re already a member of Sam’s Club, Costco, or BJ’s Wholesale Club, then you can also find an assortment of gift cards, vouchers, and discounted tickets available for chain theaters on their websites.

Entertainment Cash Back

If you don’t mind taking on debt to see a flick, certain credit and debit cards offer cash-back programs for entertainment purchases. Qualifying purchases (such as movies) can often give a certain percentage back. Eligible credit cards include the Capital One Savor, Chase Freedom and Discover More.

Free or Discount Movie Nights

Certain theaters offer summer movies for children, like Cinemark’s Summer Movie Clubhouse and Emagine’s Summer Kids Series. Other community spaces, like parks and libraries, also often purchase film rights to offer family-friendly movies—often at a steep discount, by donation or at no cost whatsoever. They might not be new movies, but they still make for an entertaining theater experience.