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How to Save Money at the Movie Theater

These 11 tips will help make a trip to the big screen more affordable.

My family has a Friday night tradition: dinner and a movie. No, we don't go to a restaurant then the theater. We make the kids dinner and let them eat it while watching a DVD or movie that we download from a video-streaming service. If we were to actually go out, the cost of movie tickets alone for four of us would be enough to buy two DVDs (which we could watch again and again).

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Watching a movie at the theater can be a real budget buster. But it's fun to occasionally treat yourself or your family to the theater experience. And there are ways to keep costs under control. Consumer and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch offers several tips for saving money at the movies (and I threw in a few of my own):

Use a daily deal site. Woroch says that sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial have featured movie theater vouchers that are up to 50% off the regular ticket price. (Just make sure to use the voucher before it expires.)

Use discount gift cards. Sites such as Plastic Jungle and Gift Card Granny sell movie theater gift cards that are 10% to 30% less than their face value. Use the gift card to pay at the theater and get instant savings.

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Join AAA. Members of this auto club can buy tickets to Regal, United Artists and Edwards movie theaters for just $8 at their local AAA office.

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Buy packs of tickets. Costco sells four-packs of tickets for a variety of theaters for $34.99 and ten-packs for $82.99. This is a good deal for families who live in cities where individual tickets cost more than $10. You also can buy tickets in bulk -- at a discount -- at BulkTix.com. A family of four can see a movie for less than $30, and the passes never expire.

Join rewards programs. Several theater chains have rewards programs that give members the chance to earn free or discounted movie tickets and concessions.

Pay with plastic. Woroch says that some banks and credit-card companies offer free passes to the theater as part of their rewards programs. Visa Signature offers its cardholders two-for-one movie tickets via Fandango on Fridays. Deutsche Bank debit card users can get one free pass for every ticket purchased through BookMyShow.com. So ask your card company or bank about if it has such reward perks.

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Look for deals on Facebook. For example, Regal Cinemas posts weekly coupons on its Facebook page. Great Escape Theatres has ticket giveaways on its Facebook page.

Watch a matinee. Daytime showings are usually a couple dollars cheaper (sometimes as much a half the price of an evening ticket).

Take advantage of summer kids' movie promotions. Many theaters show family-friendly movies in the mornings for free (or just a nominal price) during the summer. Check your local theater's Web site for details.

Attend second-run theaters. If you're not in a hurry to see a movie as soon as it's released, you'll save a lot by waiting for it to show in a second-run theater, where you'll pay just $3 to $6.

Head to a drive-in. Yes, drive-in theaters still exist, and they're a great deal. The one closest to where I live charges just $15 for a car load. Drive-ins.com has a searchable database to help you find a drive-in near you.

Get 100 of our top money-saving tips by downloading the new iPad app or purchasing the PDF version.

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