Summer is here and that means SUMMER DOLLAR MOVIES every week! Woohoo!!!! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re in for a treat; my kids (and I) look forward to this every summer. Here are my own personal tried and true tips and tricks to making this an unforgettable experience that doesn’t break the bank!
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Depending on the theater and location, they usually have one or two kid-appropriate movies playing at 9 or 10am one or two days a week, and it usually costs $1 – $2 per person. What! A! Steal! Just go to the websites of different movie theaters around you, and poke around a little bit and you’ll find it. Most of them will have a link to it on their homepage at this time of year. Here are some examples:
- United Artists & Regal Theaters – Summer Movie Express
- Cinemark & Century Theaters – Summer Movie Clubhouse
- AMC – Summer Movie Camp
- Megaplex Theatres
- Cinema West – Summer Matinee Series
Be sure to get there EARLY!!!! The lines are usually horrendous.
Okay, so now you know how to get cheap tickets. Now let’s talk about the rest of the experience. Because if you’re like me, you go to the movie theater just as much for the food as you do for the movie.
The Movie Purse
This is an essential. Just go to Ross and spend $15 on a cheap, roomy purse. Here’s what mine looks like.
I actually bought it thinking it was going to be my everyday purse, but found that it was a little too deep for my liking. But I loved it and didn’t want to take it back because it was $12.99 and it just felt wrong to return such a cute purse for $12.99. So I kept it hanging by the door, and it sure did come in handy that weekend when my husband and I went to the movies!
Instead of having to empty out my normal purse to be able to cram a box of candy in it without being noticed, I had an ENTIRE EMPTY purse to fill up! We took sodas, popcorn, AND candy! And thus, the movie purse was born.
The Other Movie Bags
When the whole family goes, we need a bit more than my Ross purse. I have found that my daughter’s cheetah bag from JoAnns is a great popcorn bag. It’s big enough to fit quite a bit of popcorn, but cute enough to pass as a purse (she’s 12, so she can get away with carrying a bag like that in…I would not recommend giving your 6-year-old boy a cheetah purse full of popcorn…we’re going for inconspicuous here).
Anyway, I’m just sayin’…I only have one movie purse, but depending on your loot, you may need a movie purse PLUS a couple bags/totes.
I usually just fill up my kids’ water bottles and pack them in the cheetah bag. If I’m feeling super generous, I’ll let them pick out their own Gatorade to take. I have them label it with a sharpie so I can hand them out in the theater in an orderly fashion. ***Tip: let them pick their color BEFORE you leave. This will eliminate fighting over colors/flavors in the theater***
I’m gonna go ahead and make a little confession here. I love popcorn. A lot. And it smells sooooooooooo good. But every time I get movie theater popcorn it makes me sick.
When we are going to the movies, we will often just pop a few bags of microwave popcorn. If you choose to do this, DO NOT pack it in the microwave popcorn bags. They are stiff and waste a lot of space. Once you pop the popcorn, dump it out into different bags to transport it.
POPCORN – Bag? Bucket? Box?
First of all, I would HIGHLY recommend dividing up the popcorn BEFORE leaving the house. Do not take one huge bag of popcorn and then plan on pouring it into individual portions at the theater. Just do yourself a favor and do it at the house. Trust me.
Good Old Brown Paper Bags
This is a decent, cheap option. The size is good for kids, although the smaller ones don’t hold very much if you allow ample room to scrunch/fold the top over to prevent spillage during transport. For this reason, I’d recommend the bigger size if you go this route. However, if the popcorn you are packing is greasy, there is a good chance your kids’ pants will get grease stains because the paper bag doesn’t hold up well at all against grease.
Cute Printed Popcorn Bags
See “Good Old Brown Paper Bags” – these are just cuter, but same outcome.
These provide better protection against the grease, but their shape makes them harder to pack in a bag. They also don’t close, so pre-loading them with popcorn at home sounds disastrous to me, because popcorn would spill in the bag…
Cotton Candy Bags
Okay, confession time. I have a bad habit of justifying somewhat ridiculous purchases, because over a lifetime, they will end up saving us money. One such purchase was a cotton candy machine. Because we have a cotton candy machine, we also have cotton candy bags, and I have found them to work the very best out of all of the things I have tried. They are big enough to close, they prevent grease from getting on my kids’ pants, and they pack well in a bag like the cheetah bag. I get them off of a website called Webstaurant, but that website only makes sense if you are ordering a bunch of bulk stuff, because the shipping is SUPER expensive. So I found these bags on Amazon, which would be the best way to go, because of the free shipping!
Boxes of Candy
Candy prices at movie theaters is just insane. You can buy the same box of candy at Winco, Target, Walmart, etc, for about a quarter of the price that the movie theater sells them for. For some reason, those boxes of candy are more appealing than bags. I think it’s just the way they look. They’re all crisp and clean and easy to hold…these boxes are $.99 at any of the above stores. They are a good way to go.
Bulk candy at Winco
If I had to choose between boxed candy and the bulk candy at Winco, I’d go bulk every time. The bulk candy is even cheaper than the boxes. You get more bang for your buck, and you have different choices than the typical boxed candy.
I use the bulk bags and bag the candy there…then I don’t even have to bag them when I get home, prior to going to the theater. They have two kinds of bags in the bulk section. The ones that are all over, are the produce bag size. However, if you go to the candy section, there is usually ONE stack of smaller bags. (I have also seen this size next to the bulk spices). These bags are thicker and the perfect size to put one kids’ portion of candy in, tie it up, and have it be their very own bag of candy. It’s a win all around!
Let the Kids Pick Their Own
If we leave enough time before the movie, I like to take my kids to Winco on the way to the movie, and let them pick their own. There’s something extra special about being the one at the store to choose your own candy. But if you want the truth, I usually buy a bunch of different kinds while I am grocery shopping, and keep them in a special Movie Candy Stash box in my closet, because we usually don’t have time to go to Winco before the movie.
Another brutally honest reason: if I am at Winco, I want to go grocery shopping. As I mention in my Meal Planning post, I don’t get to Winco very often, so when I’m there, it is nearly impossible for me to not do a month’s worth of grocery shopping. And if it is before the movie, I can’t get anything that needs to stay cold. So … sometimes I will drag my kids to Winco AFTER the movie, so we can do our grocery shopping while we are already out in Folsom. And then I let them pick their candy for the NEXT movie. Not as fun. But definitely more practical for mom.
Not All Bulk Candy is Equal – Taste
A lot of the bulk candy is the real deal. The Skittles are real Skittles, the Starburst are real Starburst, etc. But some of them are knockoffs, so just be careful and maybe buy a small amount if it’s your first time, to ensure you really like what you are getting, before you load up on it for the summer.
Not All Bulk Candy is Equal – Price
Bulk Candy is usually a good deal, but sometimes it’s really not too different from buying a bag of it in the candy aisle. Skittles, for example, are always neck and neck with the price per ounce. And I guess if I had to choose, I’d always choose the pre-bagged stuff over the stuff you bag yourself, honoring the germ-a-phobe in me. So if I’m going to get Skittles, I just get the big bag in the candy aisle.
Bulk Candy in Bulk!
Another tip – if you are buying a lot of one type of candy offered in the bulk section, consider buying a big bag of the bulk candy! I like to do this, especially if the candy is offered in one of those big barrels that you just scoop your candy from, rather than the kind that fall out of the tube-like things. Do you love my technical names for this stuff?
My point is, you can buy a pre-packaged bag of Sour Patch Kids that offers the same price per ounce as the barrel, but then you don’t have to cringe, wondering how many little fingers have been in the Sour Patch Kid barrel.
***INSIDER TIP*** They have a bunch of these bags out on the lowest shelf underneath some of the bulk candy. But…if you ask one of the workers in the bulk section, they can go to the back and check to see if they have any bags of a specific candy you are looking for! So you aren’t necessarily limited to the bags you see on the shelf…
Bigger Bags of Candy
There are a couple things we’ve found that are just better from a bag. Swedish Fish is one example. Winco USED to have the REAL Swedish Fish in the bulk section. However, they have changed them to be a cheaper brand of just “Red Fish.” They are bigger than the normal Swedish Fish, and they don’t taste as good.
So if anyone wants Swedish Fish, I break down and buy the big bag of the real deal. I still don’t buy the box though…if you look at the price per ounce, the bigger bag is a WAY better deal than the box of candy, which only has like 10 fish in it, I swear. Those boxes can be a rip-off, depending on the candy. When my kids open the box of Swedish Fish, they are disappointed every time. There just aren’t that many. And let’s face it. Who can eat 10 Swedish Fish? If I eat one, I need at least a hundred.
I. Hate. Suckers. Lollipops, Tootsie Pops, Blow Pops, Dum Dums, Baby Bottle Pops, Ring Pops. I don’t want that sticky mess anywhere near my house. Or my car. If I had a nice, fancy car. Which I don’t. So I can’t say I try very hard to keep the sticky messes away from my beater car. But…I digress. I do not allow them in my house.
Every once in a while, one of those little suckers will sneak its way into my house via a birthday party goodie bag or a post-baseball-game snack. If I catch it before it gets unwrapped, I have a special place I put it. And it’s called “The Movie Purse.”
Movie theaters are a GREAT place for suckers of all kinds! Why? Because it’s not your house! Because your kid is going to be stuck in the same place for longer than it takes to finish an entire sucker. Because it gives them something to eat the whole movie, without going through pounds of candy. Because then you don’t have to throw away those suckers that come home in the party bags (I hate wasting ANYTHING). Those are just a few reasons…
I want to be a “yes mom” when we go to the movies. It’s just a choice I’ve made. I say no a LOT, and when we go to the movies, I don’t want to set a bunch of parameters on the experience that suck the fun out of it. Let’s face it. When you walk into a movie theater, you are bombarded with the sights and smells of just about everything delicious this world has to offer. I want to be able to just go to the movies and not have to say no all the time (I still do have to say no when the kids ask for Icees, but that’s usually the only thing they see that we don’t already have packed in our bags).
If you’d rather pack goldfish and string cheese, I’m not gonna judge! I think we all have our things. I may be more lax in some areas that you are super strict, and vice versa. My kids don’t get to choose their own box of candy every time we watch a movie at home. But going to the movie theater is SPECIAL. It’s fun and exciting. And I want them to remember it for all it is…without breaking the bank.
Well there you have it! My very own tips and tricks for going to the Summer Dollar Movies on the cheap. Did I miss anything? Drop a comment below and add your tips to the list! ?