Movie Theater Hacks Every Movie Lover Should Know

By: Kate Row | Last updated: Oct 24, 2022

Enjoying a movie on the big screen with a gallon fountain soda and large popcorn bucket in your lap is truly one of life’s simple pleasures. Watching a movie at home can’t compare to the movie theater experience. But there are lots of ways you can “hack” this experience to get the most out of your movie outing.

We’ve gathered some amazing hacks for you to take advantage of the next time you take a trip to the theater. From discounted tickets to creative snack hacks, we have everything you need to save time and make the most of your next movie theater experience.

Bring a sriracha keychain for some spice

You can bring seasonings from home to add flavor to your popcorn. Some people prefer cinnamon for a sweet treat and others like lime salt for a citrus-flavored snack. But you can also bring some spice to this salty treat.

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Purchase a 1.7 ounce bottle of sriracha for less than $7 and have spice on hand wherever you’re craving it. This little sriracha bottle is on a keychain so you can always have it handy and nearby. This is the perfect purchase for those of us that prefer a little spice.

Come 13 minutes late to miss previews

Not everyone enjoys watching movie previews and ads (I was shocked too). If you want to get right down to business and miss all the stuff that plays before the movie starts, there is actually an exact science to the time you should show up.

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13 minutes is the minimum time slot for movie previews. They can go on for as long as 20 minutes, but if you pop into the theater 13 minutes late you’ll be right on time for your film and miss most (or all) of the ads that play before.

Use this app to avoid missing key parts of the movie

It’s hard to find a good time to sneak away and use the restroom during a good movie. After all, you paid to be there and you don’t want to miss anything important! But those large sodas make it difficult to sit through a 2 hour long movie without a bathroom break.

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App’s like “RunPee”will let you know when there is a lull in the movie so you know when you can make a run for the restroom without missing any important parts. It will also fill you in on what’s going on in the film while you’re taking your bathroom break.

Bring a sweatshirt

Movie theaters are notoriously freezing cold! If you’ve ever gone to the theater without a sweatshirt, I’m sure you’ve regretted that decision. Always be sure to pack a sweatshirt with you to stay warm.

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It doesn’t matter what time you go or how hot it might be outside. You can rest assured that the theater will be freezing cold, so pack a sweatshirt and maybe even a blanket to stay cozy and enjoy your movie.

Plan when you go to the movie theater accordingly

Being strategic in the time you go to the movies will benefit your movie-going experience. For instance, if you want to avoid the crowds, you should avoid the weekend and the matinee time, which is usually in the afternoon.

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If you want an empty theater to get really spooked by that horror movie, you might consider going to a later time, such as 10:00 PM, when the theater is more empty.

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Use the nacho bar to your advantage

Most theaters have a nacho bar with toppings for your cheesy chips, but you can use this bar to your advantage with your popcorn as well. Throw some jalapeños on top of your snack to add some spice.

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Some nacho bars will even have nacho cheese available and you can make nacho popcorn! There’s lots of ways to spice up this classic snack, even though it’s delicious all on it’s own.

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Bring your own bags to divvy up the popcorn

Movie theater drinks and snacks are notoriously pricey, but the portion sizes are also huge! Instead of getting a small popcorn for everybody in your party, get one large bucket and bring some brown bags to divvy it up between you.

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Most theaters do free refills on the large buckets as well so you can go back to refill if you run out. Most theaters will also give you free bags to help split up the snack as well if you don’t have bags of your own to bring.

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Choose the best seat in the house

There is actually an exact science to the perfect seat in the house. The seat that is two-thirds back from the screen and in the center of the row is technically the best seat in the house for sound and audio because it is where audio engineers level out the sound.

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Of course there are other factors when it comes to choosing a seat. You might like the back row so you don’t have to strain your neck to see the screen. Or, you might choose a seat that is behind a child so you can easily see over their head.

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Buy tickets in bulk

Movie tickets in bulk are always cheaper than buying them straight out. Bulk tickets can be up to 25% less than the regular price if you buy a package somewhere like Costco or Sam’s Club. Some theaters also offer memberships and deals for frequent movie-goers.

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Select theaters offer something called “Gold E-Tickets” which are basically unrestricted tickets to any show, at any time of day, and at any AMC location. Know your deals!

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Use a straw to butter popcorn

You’ve paid handsomely for a giant bucket of popcorn and everybody knows that the warm butter is the best part of this delicious movie-going snack. But how can you make sure to get the popcorn all throughout the large bucket?

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Take a straw and stick it through the bucket of popcorn. Pour the butter through the straw so it is distributed throughout your whole snack instead of just over-saturating the top. Voila!

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Bring earplugs

Not everyone is a fan of the booming speakers in theaters, and some movies can be worse than others when it comes to loud noises. Bring a pair of earplugs with you in case the sound gets a little too overwhelming.

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The industry standard for movie theater sound is 85 decibels, but many theaters play their films even louder than this. Earplugs are a good thing to have on hand especially if you have children joining you.

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Look for free screenings

When hot new movies come out, they need to create buzz around the release. This is especially true since streaming services like Netflix have taken away some of the excitement of going to the theater to see new films.

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Use apps like Gofobo, See It First, and Get Screening to see when there are free advanced screenings at theaters near you. You might see some cool movies before everyone else!

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Sign up for a loyalty program

Most major theaters have loyalty programs that you can join to save money on movie tickets and concessions. These usually have an annual or monthly fee and give you varying levels of discounts.

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Most memberships give you rewards based on how many tickets you buy and then you receive free tickets to movies of your choosing. These programs can cost as little as $12 a year and you’ll save tons of money on your movie trips!

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Use Fandango

Fandango is one of the best apps for movie lovers. It will help you find the movies you want to see at the theaters closest to you. The app also offers specials for being a member that will help you save even more money on your movie-going experience.

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They have many features that make it easier to cancel or exchange tickets if your plans change at the last minute.

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Wait to see your movie until it’s been out a few weeks in theaters

If you can manage to wait a few weeks to see your movie, you’ll save tons of money. Late run theaters don’t show new releases as soon as they come out. They start playing them when regular theaters stop playing them.

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Sometimes, you can see these movies for as low as a couple of dollars! However, like every other theater, the concession prices are still super pricey.

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Swap gift cards you don’t want for movie gift cards

If you’ve ever received a gift card as a gift for some place you don’t shop, fear not! The website Raise will allow you to swap out the unwanted card for a gift card you’ll actually use. This is true for all kinds of gift cards: restaurant, uber, shopping, movie theater, etc.

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So, if you come across a gift card you doubt you’ll use, exchange it on Raise for a movie theater gift card and save on your next movie. Also, you can purchase other people’s unwanted gift cards for a marked down price so you can snag a movie theater gift card for 10%-25% off.

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Use speciality discounts (if applicable)

Be aware of all the speciality discounts to see if any apply to you. Most theaters offer discounts for children, seniors, students, military, and AAA members.

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Some select theaters will offer discounts to teachers and government workers as well. Feel free to ask at the front. The worst they can say is “no”.

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Review Rotten Tomatoes

There’s nothing worse than spending the money to see a movie and then not enjoying it. Check out the reviews before you head to the theater to get an idea of what people think of the film.

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While checking reviews is helpful, don’t base your opinion of the film solely on what other people have to say. Reviews are subjective but it might give you a heads up on if it’s worth spending the money or not.

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High end movie theaters

High end movie theaters have started to pop up all over and these can change the romance game. If you’re looking for something to do for an elevated date, consider going to one of these high end theaters, like Cinepolis.

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These theaters have comfy reclining seats and waiters who will deliver your food and beverages right to your seat at any point in the movie. These theaters are great for a special occasion.

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Don’t try and sneak into movies

Back in the day people used to sneak into movies all the time. They’d pull what was known as a “double feature” and buy a ticket to one movie to then sneak into another one right after it.

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We don’t recommend this strategy because now they have an attendant come into most theaters and count the people in the theater. If there are more people in the theater than people who bought tickets, you’re screwed! So, play by the rules on this one and only go to the movie you bought a ticket for.

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Put your phone on “movie mode” through Cinemark for rewards

No one likes the sound of phones going off in the theater and it’s disruptive when people pull their phones from their bags because of the glowing screen in the dark theater. Instead of simply putting your phone on airplane mode, use Cinemark.

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The Cinemark app has CineMode which will dim your phone screen light for the time that the movie is running. If you leave your phone alone throughout the entire movie, you’ll get a reward from the Cinemark theater.

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For families with children with special needs, check out special screenings

Many theaters offer special screenings for people who have autism or other special needs. These screenings keep the lights on and lower the volume so that it isn’t over stimulating for anyone.

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It is also not required that everyone stay in their seat so families with special needs children can enjoy the movie-going experience in a more inclusive environment. AMC theaters offer these screenings and many other theaters are starting to as well.

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Purchase snacks at the dollar store before your movie

The snacks at the movie theater are insanely expensive and they only keep increasing in price. Bring a large bag or baggy sweatshirt with you to the theater and buy snacks from the dollar store before the movie.

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While this isn’t technically allowed, we all know that sneaking snacks in is basically the norm for movie theaters. As long as you’re discreet you’ll be able to enjoy your movie and snacks without breaking the bank.

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Many theaters do a discount day so do your research

A lot of theaters have their own discount days where they show movies for majorly discounted prices. For example, Bowtie cinemas offers a Super Tuesday deal where they show $7 movies and sell $5 large popcorn buckets.

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But these deals vary based on which theater you go to and where you live, so make sure to do some research and plan your movie trip on a discount day to save some major money.

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For popular screenings book tickets online

When major movies come out with lots of anticipation, the theaters can sell out fairly quickly. If you want to make sure you don’t miss out on tickets, order the tickets online before heading into the theater.

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This is also a good strategy if you need to buy tickets for a large party to make sure you can all get seats together. Planning makes perfect.

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Only frequent theaters with reserved seating

It is pretty commonplace for theaters to offer reserved seating these days, but some theaters are still simply “seat yourself”. Many people prefer to choose their seat instead of leaving it up to chance.

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After all, you might end up in one of the worst seats in the house if you don’t have a reserved spot. Stick to theaters with reserved seating if possible for the best movie-going experience.

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Buy 2D glasses for a 3d movie

3D isn’t for everyone. The way that 3D makes it look like the film is jumping out at you can make some people feel sick. If you’re taking the kids to a 3D movie but you want to watch the film in 2D, we have the solution for you.

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Order some 2D glasses online for as little as $5 and wear these in the theater instead of the 3D glasses that they give you upon entrance. Your kids can enjoy the 3D experience and you can watch the movie normally.

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Split your snacks

If you’re going to the theater hungry, you will pay the price. But if you’re going with friends be sure to be strategic about how you’re purchasing food. Split popcorn and beverages to save some money.

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The portion sizes are typically huge so as long as you can agree on which snacks you want and what kinds of drinks, you can split a large and still probably won’t finish the whole thing. All it takes is a little strategy.

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Use the trashed popcorn bucket strategy

This is one that might not be all that comfortable for everybody but it is a common hack that people use at theaters to save some money. The large nuggets of popcorn come with free refills so you can pluck a used popcorn bucket from the trash.

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Empty it and take the bucket to the concession stand for free fresh popcorn. This hack is only for the bravest among us who do not fear germs.

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Blue light glasses

If you have sensitive eyes, use a pair of blue light glasses and bring them with you to the theater. These glasses will block the blue light from the screen and prevent headaches and eye irritation.

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Since we spend so much time staring at screens these days it is a good idea to have blue light glasses on hand for occasions outside of the movie theater as well. You can purchase these online or in some stores for as little as $10.

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Don’t order the hot dogs

Some movie theater employees have commented on the state of the hotdogs, pizza, pretzels, and other “fresh” food that you can buy at the concession stands. These foods are typically microwaved and sit out all day.

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Usually, they are doused in butter and end up being pretty stale by the time you buy them. You might want to stick to the popcorn instead.

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Check google for post-credit scenes

Sometimes movies sneak in a scene after the credits roll and these small easter eggs might be integral to the plot line of the movie. Or, they might be funny in the case of a comedic film.

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But you don’t want to be hanging out for all the credits if there’s no scene after. And you want to clear out so the movie theater employees can begin cleaning. Check google before you see the movie to know if you should be hanging around after the credits roll or not.

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Avoid the movies on Christmas

According to movie theater employees, Christmas Day is the worst day of the year to go to the movie theater for everyone involved. The employees are unhappy they have to work on the holiday.

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And the families that go to the theater on Christmas are typically ones that can’t help but fight with one another. One theater employee stated that he has broken up physical fights among family members each year he worked at the theater.

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Be wary of the popcorn on days with big movie releases

When there are big movie release days the theaters have to come prepared with tons of popcorn to satisfy the masses. Apparently, they would start popping it days before the event and keep the popcorn tied off in plastic bags.

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They serve this 1 day or 2 day old popcorn to the customer under the disguise of freshly popped popcorn. Be careful if you’re going to the movies when a major movie is releasing and consider bringing your own snacks.

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Be nice to the concessions stand employees

We believe in the “treat people how you want to be treated” policy and the movie theater is no exception. Like any customer service job, movie theater concession stand workers have to deal with a host of interesting characters and the occasional “Karen”.

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Be nice to them! Some employees explained that if a customer was rude to them they would fill their glass with more ice than soda. So, always treat people with kindness!

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Bring hand sanitizer

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need to wash our hands more. The pandemic brought attention to how many germs are resting on surfaces and how we need to be more diligent about washing our hands.

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As much as movie theater workers keep the theaters as clean as possible, you never know what kinds of germs are hanging out on those chairs in the theater with people in and out. Bring some hand sanitizer and use it before you stick your hand in the popcorn bucket.

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Request free tickets if you share a theater with a screaming kid

Theaters want to make sure you have the best movie-going experience possible, so they’re usually more than happy to oblige requests from kind customers. If you sat through a movie with a screaming baby, you might be able to get a free movie ticket.

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Check in with management after the movie to see if they’ll grant you a free movie pass to apologize for the movie experience being disrupted by an unhappy baby. The worst thing that can happen is they say “no”. No harm in trying!

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Check in with the movie theater employees for movie recommendations

Movie theater employees get to see screenings of movies before they’re out to the general public. It’s one great perk of working there. And, this means they will have some inside knowledge of all the films.

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If you’re not sold on which movie you want to see, check in with the employees for some inside knowledge and advice on which movies are worth the watch.

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Check that the snack combo is actually saving you money

Most theaters offer snack combos that advertise “cheaper” food combinations. For example, you can get a hot dog with a bucket of popcorn and a drink as a combo instead of purchasing each of these items separately.

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However, the combos are not always the “deals” that they’re advertised to be. Sometimes, they actually cost more than they would to purchase the items separately. Make sure to do the math on the food prices to make sure you’re getting the best deal available.

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