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How to save money on movie tickets

Going to the cinema doesn't have to break the bank.

film reel and two movie tickets
Soraya O'Malley
Soraya O'Malley
Last updated: 19 January 2024

Despite taking a catastrophic hit during COVID, the cinema industry is back on its feet and then some. 

According to the official Roy Morgan numbers, cinema attendance is up 31% year over year, thanks to easing restrictions and some blockbuster 2023 releases like The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Barbie. 

But a trip to the cinema is far from cheap. Many of the traditionally cheaper independents have closed down, and nowadays  going to the movies feels like a 'sometimes' treat for a lot of people. We look at some ways to save money and enjoy the cinema – without the big costs.

The high price of going to the cinema

In 1982 the average cost of seeing a film was $5. In 2022 the average cost had blown out to $16.26. 

And today, some ticket prices are truly eye-watering. For instance, seeing a movie on a VMAX screen at Event Cinemas in Sydney (Bondi Junction) can cost an adult as much as $31.

For tickets alone, it could cost a family of four $115 for a night at the cinema. That's before you add in the costs of popcorn, soft drinks and an ice cream (which is mandatory for my family, unfortunately).

With prices the way they are and four kids ... we can't do it often, maybe twice a year

Leah, CHOICE member

And NSW consumers aren't alone. Startled expressions are exchanged throughout the country as Queenslanders (North Lakes), South Australians (Marion) and Western Australians (Inaloo) all pay the same or similar prices for a family outing to Event Cinema VMAX sessions. Hoyts prices around the country are about the same, too.

So it's not surprising that when we asked our members whether they still thought of the movies as a cheap thrill, the response was a resounding 'no'.

"I don't take the kids anymore," says Sue Brooks. "Last time I took them it cost me $90 for tickets and food!"

Leah Anderson agrees: "With prices the way they are and four kids, it's a special day," she says. "We can't do it often, maybe twice a year."

But with a bit of planning and a willingness to do without the add-ons, there are ways of reducing the cost.

Cinema savings tips

The cheapest times to go to the cinema 

Finding cheaper times to go is one of the most straightforward ways to save money. If you have a flexible schedule, going to the cinema during off-peak mornings or weekdays will almost certainly make it cheaper.

Cheap movie days

Most cinemas offer discounts on particular days of the week – traditionally Mondays or Tuesdays – when adult tickets can cost as little as $8.

Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace (NSW) has a Discount Tuesdays program, where adults can get themselves a $15 ticket. On Mondays students have access to an even better deal: $10 tickets on all 2D movies. 

Palace Cinemas have a number of discounts which you can explore. There are discount days for seniors, students and general admission. 

Event Cinemas usually have a number of deals and promotions running. But they usually involved signing up to its Cinebuzz members program. 

As with most discounts, make sure you read the terms and conditions before getting too excited. Many cinemas charge extra for premium screens, while others don't discount these sessions at all.

Independent cinemas

Going outside the big cities and movie complexes is another way to save money (even if you spend a bit more on petrol or public transport). They may not always have the huge screens, but local and regional independent cinemas are generally cheaper and often have a great atmosphere thanks to a community feel and historic buildings. 

Our readers reported their satisfaction with several local cinemas. 

"I now almost always go to a small community cinema," says CHOICE member Peter Christie. 

"It is old and dusty and plays only a selection of latest releases. I still think that the cinema is a thrill and have gone to the odd midnight premiere and totally enjoyed the experience with a group of complete strangers, some of whom still like to dress up."

I now almost always go to a small community cinema ... tickets are good at $8.

CHOICE member Peter

Outdoor cinemas and drive-ins have also had something of a resurgence. Some of our members say they're happy to watch from the comfort of the car, or from a picnic blanket or deckchair. A few of these cinemas are seasonal, but can be better value than their indoor counterparts.

You pay per vehicle at Sydney's Events Drive In Blacktown. Which means – if you had a big enough vehicle – six people could watch a movie for $35.

Saving on extras at the cinema

3D and 4D movies

Even 3D pioneer and director of Avatar (2009) James Cameron says that seeing movies in 3D doesn't always add to the quality of the experience – but it can add to the price. However, with 3D all but gone from cinemas these days, you're unlikely to feel the loss of missing out.

On the other hand, Event Cinemas has moved onwards and upwards to 4D, a service that mixes rollercoaster elements into the movie experience. It's very gimmicky, but may be worth doing at least once for the right movie. It's not cheap though – tickets usually cost around $33.


The smell of popcorn goes hand in hand with the movie experience, but it may not be worth $10 for a tub, or $7 for a sugary drink. Avoiding the candy bar and eating before or after the movie can really bring your costs down.

Back in 2019 – pre-COVID – we investigated the high costs of food in some cinemas. We bought a bag of snakes (180g), a packet of crisps (90g), one small soft drink (600ml) and a small popcorn at a Hoyts Candy Bar and compared the total with buying snacks from the supermarket. The candy bar food came to $21.60. Downstairs at Coles, identical or comparable items came to just $11.55 – almost half the price.

We buy our snacks from the supermarket near the cinemas, as it's much cheaper

CHOICE member Mel

Some moviegoers come prepared and bring their own snacks and drinks to the movies. A number of cinemas have 'no outside food' rules, but many have more relaxed policies and are fine for you to bring your own snacks and water, provided it's not hot food.

Given the variety of food and drink rules, it's a good idea to call beforehand and check if you're not sure. Or just risk it for the biscuit.

Joining clubs and hunting discounts

Cinema rewards

To encourage customer loyalty and return visits, many cinemas offer their members discounted or free tickets, cheap days and snacks. 

Some schemes, such as Event Cinema's Cinebuzz and Hoyts Rewards Membership, cost nothing to join. 

Palace Cinemas has two available options: a premium tier and a free tier. At $13.50 we reckon the premium option pays for itself, particularly if you're a regular visitor. It comes with a complimentary free ticket and allows for discounts for you and a friend. The Ritz Cinema Movie Club costs $22 per year ($13.50 for seniors) and gives you year round access to $8 tickets on Tuesday. Probably worth it for hardcore cinephiles. 

Discounts and vouchers

If you're unwilling or unable to join up at the cinema, a third-party discounter may do it for you. Members of some motoring associations, telcos and health funds – including NRMA, RACV, Telstra, BUPA, Medibank Private, and Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance – are eligible for discounted tickets. The downside is that they generally have to be bought in advance from the third party, so you can't just rock up at your local movie house, flash your BUPA membership card and expect to pay less on the spot.

Websites such as Groupon and Scoopon often have movie ticket offers. There are also booklets such as Entertainment Books, which have two-for-one offers and discounted movie tickets, although the membership booklet itself costs $70.

CHOICE tip: Check the fine print of all discounts carefully, as it may say you can't use them for all venues and session times.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.