Five ways movie theaters are luring back audiences, from discounts to fancy concessions

In addition to National Cinema Day with $4 tickets, theaters are offering swanky, fun perks for moviegoers to enjoy

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published August 26, 2023 2:59PM (EDT)

Woman at a movie theater
 (Getty Images / bernardbodo)
Woman at a movie theater (Getty Images / bernardbodo)

Movie theaters may not be dying, but they certainly won't ever be the same.

That's because countless cinemas nationwide have been losing their audiences, thus causing some to also lose a big chunk of their revenue and others to completely shut down for good. Much of the blame can be placed on the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced several theaters — including big name chains — to indefinitely close their doors to the public. Back in March 2020, AMC Theaters closed all of its locations nationwide, thus causing the company to lose a whopping $4.6 billion that year. The situation got so dire that director Cristopher Nolan penned an op-ed in The Washington Post, urging people to save their beloved theaters.

Many cinephiles, however, ditched the theaters way before the pandemic due to rising ticket and concessions prices. A Morning Consult poll found that 55% of respondents said they are more interested in watching movies at home because it's both cheaper and safer. Thanks to streaming services, people can do that more easily and more often. Long gone are the days when people had to rent DVDs, only to return them after a certain number of days. Now, viewers can watch as many movies as they want whenever they want.

In an effort to bring back audiences, movie theaters are getting creative with new offerings, amenities and special discounts. The most notable perk is National Cinema Day on Sunday, Aug. 27, which offers super cheap tickets to moviegoers.

Here are a few other ways theaters are hoping to lure us back:

Renting out auditoriums
An empty movie theater auditorium (Getty Images / KEHAN CHEN)

In an effort to maintain social distancing and promote COVID-19 safety guidelines, many theaters have allowed moviegoers to rent out theaters for private, intimate screenings. Fans of AMC and Cinemark can still reserve a theater in advance to watch new releases or fan-favorite films starting at just $99, which can be a cost saver with enough friends attending.


It's perfect for a birthday party, special occasion, corporate event or movie experience with friends and family. Cinemark offers several group rental options, including ones for birthday parties, field trips, religious events and video game parties. Both AMC and Cinemark are allowing groups of up to 20 to rent out their theaters.

Trivia and bingo nights
Bingo game card (Getty Images / Tetra Images)

Many major and independent theaters offer trivia and bingo nights to encourage audiences to enjoy either before or after going to the movies. Select Alamo Drafthouse locations in Washington D.C. and Virginia offer Think-N-Drink Trivia nights every Thursday at 7 p.m. Trivia themes range from TV and sports to pop culture, music, current events and history. Additionally, the luxury cinema chain hosts drag bingo events at select locations with no cover and no tickets necessary.


As for the smaller theaters, Hollywood Blvd Cinema, located in Woodridge, Ill., will host various themed trivia nights from September up until December. There's also Brooklyn's Nitehawk Cinema, which hosts movie trivia nights every other Tuesday starting at 8 p.m. The winning team gets free movie tickets and free drinks while the runner-up gets free movie tickets!

Luxury reclining seats
Recliner-style movie seats (Getty Images / lenka_x)

Several big chains, including AMC, Cinemark and Regal, have enhanced the movie-watching experience and prioritized viewers' comfort with luxury reclining seats – bringing the comforts of home to the public. The swanky seats have replaced many of the traditional theater seats, which are infamously itchy and incredibly uncomfortable. Luxury seats are adjustable and include armrests and cup holders for drinks and food.


Such seats are also a common sight across a few stylish cinemas nationwide, including Brooklyn's Nitehawk Cinema, Oakland's New Parkway Theater, Las Vegas' Eclipse Theaters, along with multiple Cinépolis and iPic locations.

Fun, themed concessions
Popcorn and theater concessions (Getty Images / Jackyenjoyphotography)

To celebrate the release of Greta Gerwig's highly anticipated film "Barbie," Alamo Drafthouse offered a Barbie Brunch as part of their special menu. The theater also launched its own BARBIE X Alamo Drafthouse Collection, which includes a ton of Barbie-themed goodies for moviegoers and die-hard fans to purchase.


In the same vein, Regal, in partnership with Pops Corn, offered fans gourmet caramel popcorn in Barbie's signature color. Cinemark also launched its own line of "Barbie" merchandise, including a Barbie-themed popcorn tin, a Barbie "B" 22-ounce cup, a Barbie Diamond Double Wall cup and a Barbie-themed Blanket in a Bag. Landmark sold several Barbie dolls from the film and AMC sold their own "Barbie" merchandise alongside their Barbie Popcorn Corvette — popcorn served in a container that looks like Barbie's signature pink Corvette.


The trend will continue. Alamo Drafthouse also recently released its all-new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-themed menu in celebration of ​​the animated film "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem." Menu offerings include Bebopcorn, Mutant Mayhem Pizza, Pepperoni & Pickle Pizza, Shell Shocked Turtle Loaded Donut Holes and Ooze Juice. Bon appétit!

Discount tickets
Digital movie ticket (Getty Images / Drs Producoes)

Sunday, Aug. 27 marks National Cinema Day, an annual event when tickets at several nationwide chains and participating theaters are available for just $4. This year, moviegoers can watch movies currently playing in theaters along with a number of classics, including "Jurassic Park," "Beauty and the Beast," "Lady Bird" and plenty others. (Some chains like Regal even carry that $4 price tag to concession combos.)


Beyond that one day a year, however, additional regular discounts include AMC's Discount Tuesdays, available for all AMC Stubs members, regardless of tier. Members save every week on tickets to Tuesday showtimes and can snag a small fountain drink and a small popcorn for just $5. Regal also offers Regal Crown Club Value Days, a special discount on movie tickets for all Crown Club members, while Alamo Drafthouse offers BFD Tuesdays, which offer discounted tickets to regular priced 2D movies.

By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon. She writes about food news and trends and their intersection with culture. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Concessions Discounts List Movie Theaters Movies National Cinema Day