A family of two adults and two concession-card carrying students seeing a standard movie on a Saturday night at Hoyts Broadway, NSW will pay $67 for tickets alone ($18 adults, $15.50 concessions). A trip to the candy bar adds to the expenses – a bag of Starburst Rattlesnakes (180g, $5.10), a packet of Red Rock Deli chips (90g, $4.40), two small cups of soft drink (600ml, $5.20 each) and two Magnum ice creams ($4.90 each), and their evening out costs them a total of $96.70. Not that they would necessarily know how much they had each been charged – receipts are provided on request, aren’t itemised, and snack prices aren’t displayed in plain sight.
Savings to be had
A family of four can save dosh by going to the same cinema on a Tuesday, when tickets to standard screenings are $11. Downstairs at Coles they’ll pay far less for identical snacks: $2.49 for the Starburst, $2.57 for the chips, $6.90 for two 600ml bottles of Coca Cola soft drink, and $6.60 for two Magnum ice creams. The cheaper entire outing costs $62.56, less than they’d pay for just tickets on the Saturday, a total saving of over $34.
Join the club
In an effort to encourage return business and brand loyalty some cinemas offer cheap days, discounted or free tickets and cheaper snacks for members. In some cases, like Event Cinema’s Cine Buzz, joining up costs nothing. In others, like Palace Cinemas’ Movie Club, you may have to fork out an annual fee, but this often pays for itself in the form of gift vouchers upon joining and on your birthday.
Some cinemas also have dedicated seniors, kids or parents clubs, and in some cases is may be well worth joining - members of the Event Cinemas Seniors Club pay $8 for movies (excluding Saturdays after 5pm).
If you’re unwilling or unable to join up at the cinema, a third party discounter may do the trick. Members of some motoring associations and health funds, including the NRMA, RACQ, and Medibank Private, are eligible for discounted tickets. The downside is that they generally need to be bought in advance from the third party. Discounts are also often available through university bookshops, though you may need to be a student or on faculty to take advantage.
Another option is to purchase a Kare Kard or Entertainment Book, sold by charities, community organisations and clubs for fundraising throughout Australia. Kare Kards, which are sold online, cost $49.95, with $10 going to an organisation of the buyer’s choice. Tickets bought with a Kare Kard are up to 35% off. Entertainment Books, available through third parties only, cost between $50 and $65, with 20% of earnings going to the seller. Tickets bought with vouchers from the book are up to 50% off.
“Why are we charged so much in comparison with the US?” asks CHOICE reader Alison Reilly. An indignant Helena Kearns added: “It's less than half price in the United States and Europe!”
Alison and Helena are on to something. The average price of a movie ticket in Australia for 2010 was $12.98.
In the United States, though, the average ticket cost just $US7.89 (approximately AUD$7.40). If you’re willing to wait a couple of months, you can even catch second and third run films in 3D at the Starplex Cinemas in California for $US2, or $US1 on Tuesdays. Snacks are cheap as chips too – hot dogs are $US1.
A movie ticket in the UK will set you back on average £5.95, or around $9. But if you cough up the £10 annual membership fee, the Prince Charles Cinema in London screens classic films for as little as £1.50 a pop.
As for our trans-Tasman neighbours? They pay on average $NZ11.05 (AU$8.55) for a 2D movie, and around $NZ2-3 extra for 3D.