budget living

My Movie Rating System: How I Decide How Much To Spend

Movies are a great way to relax and escape from reality.  Catching a good flick – whether it’s on Red Box or at the theater – is a favorite date night activity for Lloyd and me.  We even have an unspoken movie rating system that helps us decide how much cash to spend on a movie:


Weekend tickets go for full price, which is around $10 in Kansas City.  I’ll pay full price for a movie maybe 3-5 times a year.  There are only two instances where I’m willing to pay the inflated $10 for 120 minutes of entertainment:

  • It turns into an event.  For example, girl’s night out.  There are certain girly movies that my girlfriends and I will plan ahead to see as a group many months in advance.  We’ll do the dinner and drinks thang beforehand and then hit up the movie.  Over the last year, I’ve had three girl’s movie nights.  One was for the 2nd Sex and The City movie and the others were for the 2nd and 3rd Twilight installments.  Yes, it’s silly, and, yes, the movies are awful; but, we love it, we look forward to it, and we have SO much fun.  That’s more than worth the ten bucks in my opinion.
  • I’ve been anxiously awaiting this movie since the first trailer.  The Social Network movie is the perfect example.  I’ve been eagerly awaiting that movie since I first saw the preview before Inception (which also deserves my nod of approval).  I’m not technically obsessed with Facebook, but the story of its creation and world-domination is so compelling.  And in case you haven’t noticed, social media is all the rage these days, so I couldn’t wait to see the movie about the Website that practically inspired the movement.  Plus, the trailer with the cover of Radiohead’s Creep totally won me over.  (P.S.  It was a really great movie.  Go see it.)


Weekday prices at the movie theater are perfect for us sometimes-frugal folk.  At almost half the cost of a regular ticket – $6 in KC – you can’t beat the price!

The category is reserved for those movies that look somewhat interesting to me in the preview, but just don’t leave me wanting more, scrolling desperately through Internet searches like a junkie frantic for one more taste of my screenplay of choice (if they have that effect, the get bumped to the aforementioned category).

For instance, the ads and trailers for Inception really had me intrigued.  But I was mostly so confused by them that I never became hooked.  I just filed it away in that “want to see, but don’t have to see” movie folder in my mind for some future lazy weekday when Lloyd and I didn’t have much going on.  And it worked out great because the movie was amazing and I was only out $6.00 … unless the theater totally inceptioned that price into my dreams… I guess we’ll never know…

RED BOX RENTALS (AKA I heard it was okay.)

This lowly category has a crummy job: clean-up and maintenance of my movie-watching to-do list.  Here are some common Red Box Rental situations:

  • Movies that I wanted to see during the weekday, but never got around to.
  • Movies that Lloyd wants to see that I really don’t want to see (Hot Tub Time Machine, anyone?).
  • Movies that I want to see that Lloyd doesn’t want to see.
  • Movies that we are forced to see because we are bored and have no other plans (which is the only reason I ever saw Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.  I’ll never get those 2 hours back.).

I love Red Box.  LOVE it.  One dollar for the two of us to see a movie?  Yes, please!  The only time it backfires is in situations like the Nick and Norah debacle mentioned above.  Other than that, it usually proves to be a financial and entertainment win.

MOVIES ON T.V. (AKA I’m not spending money on that.)

Finally, we have the movies on TV category: Movies I was never willing to pay money for or I had no real interest in, but I’ll watch on TV if I’ve got nothing else going on.

The funny thing here is that these movies sometimes turn out to be some of my favorites.  When the whole Bridget Jones phenomenon was going down, I had absolutely no desire to see the series.  But, lo and behold, I caught the first installment on TV recently and I actually really liked it!

Truth be told, this category is such a budget-saver.  There are way too many flicks to choose from and I can’t spend money on every single one I want to see.  Eventually, I can just catch them on TV.  And I’ll be about ten bucks richer.


I’m sure that most people have some sort of internal movie ranking system.  With the number of movies vying for our attention these days we have to create some sort of system to figure out how much we’re willing to pony up for a flick – or if we’re willing to pay at all.

So what’s your movie ranking system?  Have you sworn off full-price theater tickets for life?  Or do you see every movie at the theater no matter what?

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  • Pretty much, yeah. Movies are now $15.50 (more? Haven’t been since GST went up!). The only cheap day is Tuesday, $10. I reckon we go a couple of times a year – using movie vouchers I win/earn, CC rewards, and on Tuesdays. Occasionally I also get to go to preview screenings and premieres, too.

  • Hey Amber,

    I can’t get myself to the theatre for a full price ticket unless my dad is paying. Probably once or twice a year ill pay for it. Red box is the way to go for me, and I am just pondering the idea of Netflix. Thanks for the post.

    -Formerly MrMrsBruce but now BruceBucks!

  • BF and I have Netflix (LOVE, of course), but we also enjoy seeing movies in the theater. I would say that we see probably a movie a month in the theater, sometimes longer than that. If we really want to see something (for example, the new Woody Allen coming out), then we definitely go. If we’re on the fence, we just have a discussion about whether we *really* want to see it in the theater or whether we can Netflix it later.

    • Your comment got me to thinking whether it was theatre or theater….and after googling it, I still have no idea. 😀

  • Netflix all the way! We have it in lieu of real cable (we have super basic, but only to get the cheap internet), and it is a godsend. Every so often the bf and I will go to the theatre, but it’s usually only if we REALLY want to see something when it comes out (e.g. Inception), or if it’s an event like you described (my girls and I also saw SATC2, and it was bad but fun).

  • It basically takes a really good movie (or an act of congress) to get me into the theaters. I have to really, really want to see something to head over and pay the $8 (yes, it’s that cheap) to see the movie. Even then, I try to go during the afternoons on the weekends (weekdays are a non-starter for me, work too much) when it’s only $6. I don’t have any problems with movies persay, but I’m not going to support something that I don’t like or that I think is crap. In the past 4 years, I’ve probably seen 5 movies in the theater, and 2 have been recently: Social Network and Wall Street 2.

    There’s good stuff on netflix too, but I dont usually watch that all that much, I let my girlfriend handle that que. If you like to watch movies, for 10/month, it’s probably the best deal you’re going to find.


    • LOL, I agree that movies are overly expensive and I really pick and choose which movies I pay full price for. Another vote for netflix! Hmmm… I might have to check it out. Thanks for the heads up on my feed again! I woulda never known!

  • We usually try to do matinee’s if we can for movies. It’s a little cheaper but still pricey. Forget about popcorn and candy. We bring our own. We subscibe to blockbusteronline so must of our movie watching is done through that. If it’s a movie quality movie due to action or cinemetography or just a horro movie that looks real good we usually will some of those at the movies but most of the time I can wait. Oh, and I got sucked into Hot Tub Time Machine mostly against my will! But it was funny.

  • I am a sucker for an afternoon matinee and some popcorn but I have to really be interested and of remembered the trailer for awhile. I’ve gotten Netflix so I’ve been able to just really wait it out shall I even remember I had wanted to watch that in the first place. 🙂

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