The summer movie season has officially started. The next three months will feature plenty of cinematic blockbusters and plenty of sharp elbows as everyone seems to be angling for the same opening weekend tickets.
Here are some smart ways to go to the movies this summer.
Join the club
Most major theater chains have some sort of loyalty program that allows you to accrue points toward discounted tickets, concessions or other goodies. Carmike and Regal club members receive rewards for money spent at those theaters.
Go big or stay home
Another way to save is by buying multiples of tickets at the same time. Several big warehouse shopping clubs offer special movie deals to members. Costco sells four-packs of tickets to Regal theaters online for $34.99. In addition, two-packs of tickets for $15.99 are available in some Costcos. In all cases, the tickets are valid seven days a week and have no expiration date.
Social networking can be a good way to snag hard-to-come-by tickets or cut costs on concessions. Groupon and LivingSocial.com periodically have advance deals on tickets for specific movies, while gift card websites often have discounted fare.
Easier still is "liking" theater chains on Facebook and following them on Twitter. Facebook pages in particular are good sources of info on early ticket sales for blockbuster flicks, contests to win free tickets, tie-in merchandise and DVDs and coupon offers.
Not everything's about money. Sometimes, avoiding long lines and crowds is a bigger deal -- if you can get tickets for that summer blockbuster movie.
If you absolutely have to be there opening night, stake out Fandango or Movietickets.com to buy tickets as far ahead of time as possible. Be aware that if you follow those links or click "purchase tickets" on the various chains' websites, you'll likely end up on Fandango.
The bad news: the dreaded "convenience fee."
The good news: Many theaters now accept tickets purchased online and printed out at home or even sent directly to a mobile device. So, no more having to wait in line anyway at the box office.
Weekdays are cheap
Savvy moviegoers wait out openings by just a few days and then having their pick of stadium seating on a Monday or Tuesday night.
Carmike customers can buy tickets for $5.50 for any showing between 4 and 5:30 p.m. Carmike also offers a $1.50 small popcorn and $1.50 small coke all day every Tuesday. Combine those two deals and customers can see a non-3D movie with popcorn and coke for $8.50.
Regal Crown Club members get five extra points with paid admission on Thursdays and there are $2 candy and popcorn deals on Mondays and Tuesdays.