Cool New Ways to See Movies — For Less

Gotta love movies.  With special effects, digital projection, more comfortable seats and theaters that sell booze, movies are becoming cool again…..except they cost too much.  $13-20 per show is approaching (if not exceeding) some live theater ticket prices.    But the American consumer has new options to movie-going that is causing some sleepless nights for Hollywood and big theater owners…..and lower costs for movie-goers.

MoviePass was promising earlier in 2018, but it (and its parent company) has pretty much crashed and burned.  Currently, the MoviePass offers few first-run films and available times are very selective.  Sinemia has recently tried to create a more sustainable unlimited plan for $30 per month.  It’s quite a bit more than the $10 monthly offering by MoviePass but you aren’t subject to the onerous restrictions recently imposed by MoviePass.

Some movie theater owners are pushing back.  For example,  Cinemark, the third-largest theater chain, introduced its own subscription service in early December. For $8.99 a month, members can see one movie a month and receive a 20 percent discount on concessions, among other perks. Unused tickets roll over and never expire for paying members.   AMC Theatres added a new tier to its current rewards program called AMC Stubs A-List, which costs $19.95 a month,for three movies a week (defined as Friday through Thursday; approximately 12 titles a month).  It also offers the benefits of the AMC rewards program.  The allure of many of these movie plans will be based upon how often you plan to watch films.  (Editor’s Note:  Excessive film watching, like excessive anything else, could be hazardous to your health.  Heed William Shatner’s warning to Trekkies:  “Get a life”.)

Streaming Film Options

Fandor is a movie-lovers streaming paradise.   It streams a over 6000 independent films, documentaries and international films over the Internet.  Its films cover 500 genres that include Hollywood classics, undiscovered gems, and the latest festival favorites. Fandor provides curated entertainment and original editorial content on desktop, iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Prime, Sling TV, CenturyLink Stream, and throughout social media.

Another decent movie offering is Crackle.  No, it isn’t a breakfast cereal.  It’s actually a free movie service offered through most streaming boxsets and online.  Crackle has a rotating selection of interesting movies and classic old TV shows to choose from. These are mostly older options, but there are some top-quality films available.  The downside: it has advertisements  (remember those?), so it is a bit like watching movies on TV  (remember those?) but not as many commercials.    Got Amazon Prime?  It offers a decent (albeit dwindling) selection of movies to Prime members that are included in the membership.  Meaning, the movies are free, so long as your Prime account is active.

Free Satellite and Over-the-Air TV

If outer space is your thing, there’s always free satellite TV.  Yes, we did say “free”.   “Free to air” (FTA) satellite TV delivers thousands of channels of broadcast content via satellite to consumers all over the world. FTA signals are not encrypted; if you have the right receiving equipment, you can forget about subscription fees and decoders.  The producers of FTA free satellite TV content distribute their programming via satellite because it’s the most efficient way to reach their audiences. It’s quite similar to the free over-the-air television broadcasts that you can receive with a TV antenna – just a different means of transmission. The catch is that you have to get the right equipment.  To receive FTA satellite TV content is pretty straightforward; you need a satellite dish, an FTA receiver box, and some coaxial cable running between dish, box, and your TV set.  (FTA satellite TV gear manufacturers include Pansat, Coolsat, and Conaxsat.  All are sold at Amazon.)  The receiver set will cost a couple of hundred dollars or more, so there is an upfront investment.   However, once you set up your system, you’ll have unlimited access to an entire universe of free TV programming.  Most of the channels are government-sponsored public TV services, like PBS in the United States. They include wide variety of channels, including news, sports, religious and ethnic programming, all for free and with no commercials.

Of course, you won’t get MTV, ESPN, HBO, or any of the high-priced premium channels that are delivered only via encrypted satellite or cable TV signals. But there are plenty of broadcasts that you can get free of charge, from many sources that deliver FTA broadcasts via satellite. FTA satellite TV is a favorite among expatriates, who want to stay tuned to the channels of their home nations but don’t want to pay for it.

DVDs  (Yes, they still exist)

Finally, there is your local library.   Yes, you have to leave your house to get a DVD.  Most public and university libraries also have a wide selection of DVDs, video games and Blu-ray movies available to rent at no charge.   And free is still a pretty good deal in our book.

And, of course, you shouldn’t forget about Redbox.  For cheap DVDs of relatively new releases, you can’t do better.   However, you may not know that Redbox has begun an online streaming “on demand” service that offers both movies and TV shows.  Like with the big red boxes, it is a per-movie charge, rather than a subscription.  Some of the most recent releases run between $2.99-4.99 per view and you have 48 hours to finish watching the film.  It is still in beta mode, so the movie watching experience may not be as smooth as Amazon or iTunes.   Current TV shows, including the popular HBO series, run about $10 for an entire season of episodes.   Still, with some of the online movie offerings at $1.99,  you can’t go wrong.

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