The “Free” Movie Ticket That Was Not So Free

How would you like to see a movie in a theater, for the price of zero dollars and zero cents?  Yes, we’re talking about a free movie ticket, one that was handed out by an employee of the theater itself after a recent show.

Sounds pretty good, right?  It certainly couldn’t hurt to get a free ticket, given the cost of going to the movies these days.  I’ve written about how to save money on movies, and there are plenty of cheaper alternatives to going out to see a show.  That’s what makes getting this otherwise expensive option for free an appealing thing.

First, I’ll share how and why the free tickets were given out.  Recently, while seeing a movie at a nearby theater, the sound went out in the middle of the show.  For a few minutes, there was no sound at all.  The theater wasn’t crowded at all, with seemingly less than 30 people for a matinee show, and nobody got up to complain to the management of the place.  People were kind of looking around, looking at each other, and apparently just hoping that the problem would go away or get corrected.

At that point, I just got up and decided to tell the theater management what was going on.  On my way out the door, I bumped into an employee who seemed to sense there was an issue. I told him there was no sound, and he acknowledged this and left to presumably take care of it.  Which, he apparently did, because within 30 seconds we had sound again. 

Again, in total we missed maybe a couple of minutes of sound in the entire movie.  Not a huge deal at all, right?

After the movie ended, I was surprised to see that there was an employee of the theater standing by the door to the lobby, handing out a complimentary movie ticket.  Yes, for the inconvenience of missing out on a few minutes of sound, we could each get a free ticket for a future movie.  Hooray!

Not a bad move by the theater’s management, for a variety of reasons.  For one, it shows that they are interested in keeping their customers happy.  I liked getting that ticket! Certainly better than nothing, or no acknowledgement by them.  I sure wasn’t expecting anything at all, since I didn’t think missing a few minutes of sound was anything to get bent out of shape over.

But then I thought about it some more.  When you come back for a free movie, it’s not like you’re guaranteed to spend no money.  Actually, if you buy any concessions, you might spend a lot.  I actually spent $4.75 for a bottle of water on that hot day, which is outrageous but I was really thirsty.  The medium popcorn I spied was $7.00, if I saw correctly. Glad I didn’t buy it, as that I not cheap!

So, if you take them up on their “generous” offer, you’re a potential source of additional revenue from sales of overpriced concessions!

Just another example of how there is value to a business giving something away for free.  From the customer’s perspective, it’s also a good example of the saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch!

My Questions For You

Have you ever gotten something that seemed free or really inexpensive up front, but had a lot of hidden potential costs associated with it?

How much do you usually spend on concessions at a movie theater?

This post was an Editor’s Pick in the Carnival of Personal Finance at Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance


  1. says

    Haha remember they said free move ticket not free all together. They know most people will come back with a guest and even if its the guest that got a free ticket you both will probably spend about $20 not to mention what you spent last time. The part I really dont like is when the free ticket is the matinee prices so you still have to pay on top.

  2. says

    I got a free ticket one time for something similar, except the fire alarm went off mid movie. Apparently it was just malfunctioning. We have also asked for free tickets when the seats were uncomfortable. It actually worked!

  3. says

    I haven’t spent anything on movie concessions since I bought a box of JuJubes as a dumb kid. As an adult, I’ve been known to sneak a can of beer into a theater. Just cough loudly when you open it. :)

  4. says

    A library where I used to work gave away free passes for families to visit museums. Several times we had people come back and yell at us because they expected free parking as well!

  5. says

    If you manage not to buy any concessions, then it’s really a free ticket and a nice move from the management, especially since it wasn’t expected from them to react that nice. So maybe they just did want to say “sorry it happened, here’s a freebie” and didn’t consider the extra in come that might (and probably will) come from popcorn and soda and other goodies… stuff I personally want to stay away from when going to the movies, but simply can’t.

    • Squirrelers says

      It was a good move from them, better than nothing. It was a good business move too, in that they engendered some loyalty in the process.

  6. says

    Actually in that situation, I would probably be more likely to buy some concessions. If they gave you a free ticket for two minutes of inconvenience, then going and dropping a couple of bucks on a box of candy seems fair, especially when you consider that you probably would likely be going back to see a movie at some point anyways, so it’s not like they dragged you back in against your will.

    • Squirrelers says

      Oh, I think it was a business decision on their part! Can’t get something for nothing, and not sure they were trying to be fair based on altruism :)

  7. says

    I suppose similar to your free movie tickets are the free tickets we often get to go see the local minor league baseball team. We almost always spend around $10 each for a BBQ sandwiches. We also still have to pay $10 for parking. But we are saving the $11 per ticket that they normally cost. I am ready to go in a heartbeat if it is something I really enjoy, I have the time, and I get a free ticket.

    • Squirrelers says

      If you consider it to be a value, then it just might be exactly that for you. Sometimes things that are fun are worth it at full price, and the discount is simply icing on the cake!

  8. says

    The movie ticket really is free. What you choose to buy when you are at the theatre is another story. I see this as being a good example of customer service. Was the theatre a chain?

  9. says

    We always eat a meal right before a movie and that keeps us from wanting anything else.

    I hate the deals where you get one meal free if you buy one at full price. Usually those places charge a lot of money for that one meal. Add drinks, tips, and taxes, and you end up with a total that is out of my budget. So no thanks on those deals!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>