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You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t complained about movie theater costs.
Not only are ticket prices increasing — they’re now on average $8.33 a ticket — but Americans are also spending more on concessions alone. In fact, six out of 10 people will spend more than $10 at the concession stand, according to Millionaire Corner, bringing the total cost for a night out at the movies up to about $20 per person.
So, how can you save while still having fun? Here’s a list of unconventional movie theater snacks that might shave a couple bucks off your trip to the box office:
Want to save money on food at the theater? A big early dinner will do, or some strategically chosen snacks.
Nuts and other legumes, known for filling people up, make a perfect pre-movie snack. Eat some almonds, pound some pistachios and then head to the theater. You’ll be full enough that you won’t need that fudge bar or hot dog.
There's also that whole gum thing. Chewing on a stick will keep you occupied during the movie and curb your appetite temporarily, providing the perfect amount of protection against those delicious movie theater smells.
And don't forget your candy necklaces and bracelets. Wear one of these bad boys into the theater and you’re home free to enjoy a sugary snack for the entirety of the movie — if you can contain yourself.
There are also ways to get creative in the theater that can save you some money.
Are you thirsty? If you’re looking to curb your spending but still want a sugary sweet soda, buy the drink, order some extra ice on the side and chow down on that for a while. It may not be overly filling, but at least it’ll get you chewing.
Some movie theaters also have frozen slushy drinks available, which are a perfect combination of both drink and food. They're heavy, and they've got flavor — good enough to satisfy your sweet tooth and quench your thirst. This also applies to milkshakes. Buy one of these and forget the popcorn and nachos.
There are also movie theaters that sell chocolate milk — and that’s perfect if you’re looking to get something chocolate-flavored that’s also a liquid. Plus, studies show that certain kinds of milk may be able to boost your energy, keeping you awake throughout the entire movie.
And if your kids really, really want a snack, grab a lollipop. It’ll be sure to occupy their attention just long enough.
Share with others
If you’re at the theater with your extended family and everyone wants something different, find a way to share. Mixing M&M's with your popcorn is one option, and buying in bulk and splitting items works too.
This is an especially good strategy if you're attending a theater that offers a free refill if you buy the large size, but make sure you're with a big enough group to justify the refill. It may save you money by keeping you from buying a snack later on, or it may not.
And, be wary of buying in bulk too. Some concessionists may pressure you into upgrading to a combo meal, which some movie theater employees will tell you are not always the most economical.
In the end, though, it may be worth it. Slate's Jill Pellettieri thinks families can gain valuable memories and experiences from buying concessions at the theater.
"A trip to the concession stand might elicit memories of a first date — holding her hand, greasy with popcorn, in the dark theater, or the tug of your teeth on the licorice sticks you ordered as a kid, or the Good & Plenty your grandmother used to buy you on your Saturday trips to the movies," Pellettieri wrote. "What's $9 for that?"