Planning a Trip to the Movie Theater in 3 Steps: A Guide for Consumers

Planning a trip to your local multiplex this weekend? Thought so! Trying to make it worth your while? I figured as much. Don’t worry – just treat movie theaters like online stores and you’ll be fine.

No joke.

Your next trip to the theater will no doubt constitute a substantial purchase on your part, which makes you more than just a filmgoer – it makes you a consumer. And what do consumers do best? Well, consume, I suppose. More specifically though, they shop, and when it comes to shopping, “online” is the place to do it.

Want to make your next moviegoing excursion a great one? Be sure to plan ahead – online.

Here’s how:

Trust the reviews!

1) Do Your Research

Any half-intelligent online shopper knows to read other user reviews before adding an item to the shopping cart. These days, scouring the ‘reviews’ or ‘comments’ section of a website page for useful information on a product is just plain practical. Movies are no different in this regard. If you know that you and your friends will be heading to the theater but don’t have a particular film in mind, be sure to read a handful of reviews for at least a few different movies before making your final decision.

Now Showing: Nothing -- apparently.

2) Pick a Theater

There’s always more than one, you know. While the theater closest to you is probably the simplest choice, don’t be afraid to shop around for a better location. Showtimes will obviously vary between theaters, so finding the showtime that works best for you may be a matter of finding a different theater. The beauty of it? Listings are almost always available online. Same goes for pricing. You wouldn’t purchase an item from a given website without verifying that it isn’t cheaper to buy elsewhere, right? Of course not! So, don’t spend more money than you have to by going to your nearest theater when a cheaper alternative may be just down the road.

It’s also good to keep in mind that different theaters provide different experiences altogether. For instance, if the movie you’d like to see is showing in 3D at “select theaters,” then it’s probably worth finding a theater that offers 3D showings. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to get more bang for your buck!

Quick Tip: Bright neon tickets are the best kind!

3) Get Your Tix

Just like you’d buy tickets online for a concert or music festival weeks or months in advance, it’s sometimes wise to buy movie tickets in advance as well. Many theaters have websites nowadays that’ll let you pay for and reserve your movie tickets long before the showtime. Think about it: it’s never fun to arrive at a theater and find out that the film you were hoping to see is sold out. Your local cineplex will probably get crowded on the weekends, so if you’re planning to go on a Friday or Saturday night, make sure that you’ve reserved your tickets online, then just pick them up when you arrive.

At the end of the day, there’s no sense in thinking of theatrically released movies any differently than other goods and services on the market. After all, movies are a commercial enterprise, and while that may be unfortunate from an artistic standpoint (a blog for another day), it’s one of the upsides as far as consumerism goes. Being able to plan your trips to the theater beforehand means less aggravation in the long run. By planning ahead, you can avoid a subpar viewing experience and make the most of your trip.

Try it out. “Shop” for your next theater experience online and find out for yourself how easy it is.

Does planning your next theater trip seem simple enough? Do you normally research your movies online before heading to the theater? Do you buy tickets in advance? Let us know in the comments!

Joseph Giorgi

Joseph is the head of the Media Team at Quality Logo Products. He's a video specialist, blogger, perfectionist, and all-around likeable guy. When he's not busy focusing on the nitty-gritty details of his written and visual work, he's normally listening to bad 80s music and scouring the internet for useless information on useless subjects. You can also connect with Joe on Google+.


  1. Bret B.

    While I LOVE a good movie every now and then, and I’m a fan of movie theatres in general, it’s time for theatres to step up their game and do a better job cracking down on ALL of the following:

    a.) Noisy Kids
    b.) Annoying Kids
    c.) Loud Eaters
    d.) Squeaky Theatre Chairs
    e.) Obnoxious Kids
    f.) Cell Phones
    g.) Children

    … It seems no matter how much I pay for a ticket (iPic Theatre in Bolingbrook is $35.00 a ticket!) I can’t get away from any of the above. My wife and I intentionally HUNT for theatres/times when very few tickets have been sold so as to avoid as many of these annoying tendencies that people tend to exhibit while watching a movie.

    Seriously people – learn to shut the f*ck up and watch the movie. I understand Cars 2 might be too difficult for you to comprehend or that Edward from Twilight gets you excited, but ask questions and share those intimate thoughts AFTER the show.

    I’m ALL for an adults only theatre where you have to check your cell phone at the door and you have to pass an IQ test before you can enter! 🙂

    • Joseph Giorgi

      An enjoyable, uninterrupted moviegoing experience is such a rare occurrence these days that I’ve practically given up on it. The fact that you have to go out of your way to find a showing with a small audience is a sad state of affairs, though I agree it’s pretty much necessary. If incompetent parents would teach their children how to remain silent and considerate in a theater, I’d be a lot more enthusiastic about movies these days — that’s for sure.

      Good point about theaters mandating that patrons “check their cell phones at the door.” That’s actually a solid idea. Of course, theaters should have enacted that policy a long time ago. Nowadays, people would likely complain about a rule like that — the same incompetent people who will eventually become incompetent parents and refuse to teach their children about movie theater etiquette. And the cycle will continue into the next generation.

    • That Guy At Work

      With your luck Bret I bet you’ll get stuck sitting next to a woman who’s going into labor! 🙂

    • Amanda

      Bret—that theater looks amazing!!!! Andrew would love those reclining seats! =) Thanks for mentioning it! Maybe we’ll get to check it out for our birthdays!

  2. amy

    Super post Joe! Planning out a theater trip certainly seems easy enough, but I usually just go to the theater that’s closet to me because it’s convenient. Since it’s convenient and not necessarily cheaper, I obviously need to do some more research.

    I still try to use my college ID to get that discount and when you purchase online that option isn’t always available. I know I probably need to stop doing that, but a discount is still a discount 😉 LOL

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Never apologize for using your student discount. I still use mine. Especially with how crazy movie prices are.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Hey, there’s nothing at all wrong with getting a discount. I say you may as well make use of that college ID for as long as you can! 😉

  3. JPorretto

    Groupon Now! has deals every Sunday for a theater in Naperville. $8 for 2 tix. Even though I haven’t used that yet I unfortunately compare the costs of other theaters to it. So after spending $20+ for me and the wife at the closest place, I just keep saying to myself “I could have saved $13 dollars if I just saw this on Sunday in Naperville.” That’s a great frame of mind to see a movie huh? #I’mcheap **sigh**

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Yes, but if it’s Hollywood Palms, you have to buy food there. So you’ll end up spending about the same or more.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      $8 for 2 tickets? That’s basically two for the price of one! I really need to stay on top of the latest Groupon deals these days. I feel at times like I’m wasting money by not consulting that site more often.

  4. Rachel

    I do a lot of this planning when going to midnight showings, since it’s almost always a good idea to buy those in advance. Another thing to keep in mind is the fee pretty much everybody tacks on to internet ticket sales. You can sometimes get around these if you sign up for the theatre’s or ticket vendor’s reward program, but often you’ve just got to suck it up and deal with the extra fees if you want guaranteed seats to a popular showing. When I went to the midnight showing of the last Harry Potter movie, after extra fees for 3D, IMAX, and buying online, a single ticket came close to $16! It was crazy–but worth it, in that case, for Harry. 🙂

    • Joseph Giorgi

      I bought my tickets online for the IMAX 3D midnight showing of Harry Potter as well. 🙂 And you’re right — it gets pretty costly after all those fees. Still, the peace of mind in knowing that your tickets are reserved makes it worth it in most cases.

      • Amanda

        I can’t wait to see another IMAX 3D movie–it’s so worth it!!! =)

  5. Jenna Markowski

    I don’t usually do a lot of research about the actual film before I go see it, but I always try to find the cheapest theater. There is a theater in Bloomingdale called The Picture Show where it’s $1.75 for a ticket. It doesn’t have brand new movies, but I’m not that big of a movie buff so I don’t mind waiting for a movie that I want to see to show up at the cheaper theater. 🙂

    • Amanda

      That’s a great price! Way to save money, Jenna!!! 😉 Kind of like “used movies” eh?

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Second run theaters are always the best deal! The only problem is that it’s tough to find one nearby these days. It’s like they’re starting to disappear one by one, which is sad, since I used to love going to those theaters when I was growing up. I’ve never been to the one in Bloomingdale, but I’m glad to hear that it’s still going strong.

  6. Jen

    Great Post Joe! I really enjoy going to a theater (especially the popcorn). But it’s usually spur of the moment if I decide I want to see a new movie. I do however purchase my tickets online right before I leave the house, because it saves so much time and then I don’t miss the trailers I love so dearly 🙂

    • Joseph Giorgi

      I’m a big fan of the trailers too, Jen. 🙂 I usually check for the newest ones online every couple of weeks. Unfortunately, this usually means that when I see them in theaters it’s never for the first time, which sort of ruins their magic for me. Still, I can’t help myself: I need to see them online as soon as I can!

  7. Amanda

    Great post Joe! I go to the movies in spurts. I hadn’t been for a few months, and in the last couple weeks I’ve seen 3. Just depends on what’s coming out and how busy we are. I’ve never bought tickets online. And I’ve never been to a completely sold out show, I guess because I rarely go to a movie right when it’s released. The closest ones recently was “The Help”, I went on opening weekend, and the theatre was almost all full. Our local theater is nice enough and tickets before 5pm are only $6.50, which I’m ok with. But after 5pm they’re $8.50, I think that’s too much. And the popcorn/drink prices are outrageous, so I skip those all together. A bottle of water in my purse is just fine. =)

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Yeah, sneaking things like water and candy into the theater is the way to go. It’s like 4 bucks for candy at the theaters these days — and probably more than that at more expensive theaters. Pretty outrageous if you ask me! I usually bring those 99-cent boxes of Willy Wonka candy to the theater with me. 🙂

      Now I want some Runts!

  8. Amanda

    I want to go to Hollywood Palms still, I’ve never been to a theatre that serves food like that. It sounds awesome! Although, if I eat dinner during a movie I don’t follow the movie as well–and I hate missing parts! Especially in a theater when you can’t rewind to hear what you missed. The DVR has me spoiled.

    • Amanda

      *That was supposed to be under Jeff’s comment. =(

  9. Kyle

    Great tips, Joe. I’m not a huge movie-goer, but I’ll keep these in mind the next time I go. I totally agree with your advice to check reviews before going. The last thing I want to do is drop money just to sit through a snooze-fest for two hours.

    I’ve never ordered tickets online, but I’ll definitely consider doing so next time. I’m actually kind of surprised I haven’t before now that I think about it.

    • Joseph Giorgi has saved me from attending “snooze-fests” on more than one occasion, that’s for sure. 🙂

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