How to avoid movie surge pricing, save money on tickets

Blockbuster movies hit the big screens this Memorial Day weekend, but some tickets could put a crack in your piggy bank. Some theaters have started using surge pricing.

Just when moviegoers started sliding back into theaters, some chains, AMC, Regal, and Cinemark, started surge pricing. Usually, it's an extra dollar or two for tickets for hot movies, including The Batman, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Dr. Strange: the Multiverse of Madness.

"If it’s a high-profile movie, they will charge more during the first week, or two weeks, after the release," explained Andrew Schrage, CEO of Money Crashers.

RELATED: Inflation may have peaked, but where do we go from here?

Hollywood data analysis firm EntTelligence says average opening weekend tickets have jumped from $10.30 for Wonder Woman 1984 in 2020, to $12.99 for Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and $12.66 for Top Gun: Maverick this weekend.

To avoid surge pricing, simply wait a week or two.  Or wait even longer to save big at independent and late run theaters.  

You can also save on movie tickets by skipping 3D or IMAX showings that charge extra.  Check out theater discount days, which are often Tuesdays, as well as senior, student, veteran discounts, and matinées.

"These can be huge savings of 50% or more on the fixed price tickets, or even
more when the surge pricing starts to get introduced," said Schrage.

MORE: Cash in on savings on Concert Tickets

Avoid online convenience fees by buying tickets directly from the box office, which usually sells them up to four to nine days in advance.  Check out theater loyalty programs, such as AMC's Stubs, Cinemark Movie Club, Regal Unlimited.

"There might be a little fee per month or per week, but you'll save significant amount on the tickets," said Schrage.

Other places to get discounted movie tickets are Costco, Sam's Club, BJ's Wholesale, Groupon, LivingSocial, and gift card sites like Raise.  

Stack the savings with cash back using a rewards credit card.

RELATED: How to enjoy summer travel without breaking the bank

Concessions can cost you some serious cash; save the most by just avoiding them.

"They charge through the roof for things like soda and candy any time, meals you have at the theaters," said Schrage. "Eat up before you go, or plan a nice dinner after the movie."


Bringing food into movie theaters is usually forbidden, but some moms bring in baggies and save money by buying the large popcorn and dividing it up among the family members.