How To See Pre-Release Movies… For Free

Anyone who knows me well can tell you how much of a pop culture geek I am.  Therefore it should come as no surprise that I absolutely love movies.  The problem comes with the cost of seeing a movie in theaters.  Over the years the price of tickets has risen steeply, such that a single ticket in urban areas can easily set you back $13 for just the ticket.  A movie for two with some snacks or drinks on a semi-regular basis can eat away at the wallet!

Now, there are many cheaper ways to see movies (ie. Netflix, renting DVDs from Redbox or the library), but there’s something about actually seeing a movie in theaters that I love.  The scratchiness of the red folding seats, the crunch of popcorn under your feet, the enormity of the wall-sized screen – you just can’t get that at home.  So when I discovered advance movie screenings back in 2013 I was quite ecstatic.

Here’s how it works:

Prior to movies being fully released to the public, they are oftentimes screened for free in order to generate buzz about the movie.  I use to be alerted of nearby showings.  You can create an account on the site and sign up for emails when movies are being shown in your area.  Once you receive an email about an upcoming screening, the provided link will take you to a website where you can receive screening passes for 1 to 2 individuals.  The caveat here is that they – being the great movie production/theater/money-making they – want the theater to be full to capacity, so more tickets are released than seats available; thus, you are not guaranteed a seat.  I generally try to get to the theater about an hour before the movie itself starts, and I’ve had a pretty good success rate.  I’ve only been turned away at a theater twice, and that was when I showed up within 15 minutes of the start time.  After attending a few screenings you’ll get a better feel as to how early you should arrive, as factors such as popularity of the movie, your location, and date of screening (most advance screenings occur Monday-Thursday evenings, although I’ve been to a couple on Sunday) can impact moviegoer turnout.

During the past five years I’ve seen dozens of movies ranging from The Maze Runner to Captain Fantastic to Gleason – all for free.  Every once in awhile the movie actors or directors will show up to answer questions or thank everyone for coming.  Melissa McCarthy made a quick cameo at the Atlanta screening of Spy, and Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, Emily, were hilarious during a Q & A after The Big Sick.

I’m quite the happy clam that the movie gods conspired to introduce me to advance movie screenings, so my hope is that all the other movie-fiends out there who haven’t been so fortunate as to be dragged along to a pre-release movie with me will now have their own way to score free movie tickets.  Enjoy!


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