Frugality and Movie Theaters Don’t Mix

This morning, we took the kids to see Toy Story 3 in a movie theater.  It was the first time my four and a half year old has been to a movie.  (Hey, my husband and I haven’t been since we saw The Proposal with Sandra Bullock in June, 2009.)  My nearly eight year old got to go to the movies every Friday with his summer camp, so he’s not nearly as deprived.

The main reason we don’t go to the movies?  Quite simply, the price.  Just to get in to see the movie in the evening will cost $31.50 ($22 for a matinee).  Then, if they order refreshments, you can count on another $20 (at least).  So, for a family of four to see a flick, we’re looking at $42 at a minimum.  It’s hard for me to pay that when, if I wait just a few months, I can often get the DVD for less than $25.

But Toy Story 3 got us.  Their genius marketing and commercials all over TV had the desired effect:  the kids begged us to pleeeeaaase take them to see the movie, with their big sad eyes and Buzz Lightyear and Woody toys in hand.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid of the word “no”, in fact, it’s my first response to any request when we’re in a store.  But I caved because they should be able to go see a movie once in a while, right?

We took $22 out of our grocery money and headed to the theater.  There were a few conditions, though.  We had to see the show before 4PM, at which time the carriage turns into a pumpkin….oops, sorry, you get to pay more to see the same movie.  There would be no concession purchases (what’s wrong with the king size candy packs they just bought at the grocery store for 88 cents?  Why buy popcorn when we have 32 packages of microwave popcorn purchased from Costco in the cupboard?  Why soda when water is so much better for you anyway – especially in the desert heat?)

So, in my biggest purse, I loaded up four bottles of water, a Hershey bar and a package of Whoppers.  We paid our admission and I avoided eye contact with all of the employees, because if I looked at them, they would know I smuggled in candy and I would be searched and subsequently removed from the theater and humiliated. 

As I reflect on this, I realize that I unwittingly taught my kids two lessons (three, if you count that frugal people have trouble raising children).  Today, I taught them that there are times when it’s okay to be dishonest and sneaky (you’re not supposed to bring your own refreshments).  On the other hand, I showed them that we can alter our spending to afford the luxury of a movie in a theater once in a while and not spend needlessly on overpriced goods (i.e., concessions).

Now, since blaming others for our own shortcomings seems to be in vogue, let me toss this out there:  if they didn’t mark up the price of concessions over 300%, my moral dilemma wouldn’t have happened in the first place.

So there.


16 thoughts on “Frugality and Movie Theaters Don’t Mix

  1. jpcabit August 3, 2010 / 5:36 AM

    Tsk tsk! Rationalizing wrong-doing!!! 🙂

    I haven’t been to a movie in, goodness, close to a decade.

    • jannatwrites August 3, 2010 / 6:38 AM

      Well of course I have to rationalize it, it eases a guilty conscience. (And in my mind, I’m therefore innocent and free do do it again in the future.) 🙂

  2. Stephen Watkins August 3, 2010 / 6:21 AM

    Frankly… I have absolutely ZERO qualms about smuggling contraband snacks and goodies into the movies (when we go, which is rarely). That’s the way I was raised, and my wife is even more frugal than I. The nervous fear of getting caught only lasts until the guy tears my ticket. Once I’m past that hurdle, I’m completely comfortable with my decision. It’s economically rational:

    Fact the First: as you mention, movie concessions are marked up to an extreme level; I understand that movies make razor-thin margins on ticket sales (supposedly, I haven’t seen facts to support this assertion), but I cannot justify paying $3 for a candy bar or $6 for a bucket of popcorn and as much for a fountain drink. I already shelled out $10+ a pop for the movie.

    Fact the Second: most people, myself included, typically arrive no more than 10 minutes and often less than 5 minutes early to a movie. But concession stand lines can be long and slow. One of the things I like to do at a movie is catch the trailers to see if there are any other movies I might want to see. I’ll miss them if I wait in that concession line.

    Fact the Third: I hate that greasy stuff they squirt onto all their popcorn.

    As a economically rational being, therefore, it just makes sense to bring my own goodies!

    • jannatwrites August 3, 2010 / 6:40 AM

      Thank you for justifying my actions. At least if I’m wrong, I’m not alone…which somehow makes me feel better! I agree, that greasy stuff they put on the popcorn is nasty and is REALLY bad for you (as is almosst everything else we eat, come to think of it).

  3. Lua August 3, 2010 / 1:58 PM

    I’m with Stephen- I’m very okay with sneaking food into the theater because the price they have there, it’s just ridicules.
    Why feel guilty about small things when no one gets hurt, right? 🙂

    • jannatwrites August 4, 2010 / 7:33 AM

      I guess you’re right, Lua. It’s just that I’m normally an honest person who doesn’t break rules. Maybe what I need to do is redefine what the playing rules are…after all, it’s not like I didn’t pay to see the movie!

    • jpcabit August 5, 2010 / 5:20 AM

      I usually watch a movie at home. Youtube. Ticket: $0. Concessions: No more than $2.

      Oh yes. 🙂

      • jannatwrites August 5, 2010 / 8:40 AM

        Oh, jpcabit, I like the way you think – that’s the way to go! And, you get the added bonus of not having tall person slip in and sit in front of you right before the main feature starts!

  4. Artswebshow August 4, 2010 / 8:03 AM

    Well said, i hope you had a good time

    • jannatwrites August 4, 2010 / 8:18 AM

      I did…except for the guilt of sneaking snacks 🙂 It’s getting better, though!

  5. chlost August 4, 2010 / 9:26 AM

    Hmmmm-this is a tough one.

    The fact that you you use the word sneak is the key….it is wrong by your own definition. Not that it can’t be rationalized, but the basic fact is it is against your morals and the rules.
    I hate to pay for the concessions, so we limit our money and get only what we can buy within the budget we set. If we share a soda, or the popcorn, or nothing, that’s it. I am not trying to sound smug, but that is how we have handled the dilemma. Everyone has to make their own decision.

    • jannatwrites August 5, 2010 / 8:37 AM

      Good point, Chlost…could be why we see one movie every-other-year. I won’t have to deal with this again until 2012 🙂

  6. Brown Eyed Mystic August 4, 2010 / 9:40 PM

    Aww… I loved your gesture above anything else! Sneaking or not sneaking, the kids got to see the flick! Huzzah! 😉 I am sure they enjoyed themselves, just like you adults must have.


    • jannatwrites August 5, 2010 / 8:38 AM

      The kids did enjoy themselves – they absolutely love the Toy Story movies. Thanks for your comment!

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