The Best Movies Are Free…Sometimes

My wife and I enjoy going to the movies. Frankly, who among us really doesn’t? I mean, it’s nice to get out and enjoy some escape away from the norm of the TV and even though a live play or concert is a treat, taking a home equity loan to enjoy those for me these days is cost prohibitive. I prefer the free or almost free entertainment available outdoors in the summertime anyway, but back to my point here: the movies. Especially free movies.

The best movies are free movies, when you can get them that way. Read on for how I've seen some free movies recently and perhaps you can, too.

Movie Night at the Local Cinema

Usually, for about $40 around these parts, with popcorn and a couple of small sodas in hand you can catch a new flick at a nearby theater in central NJ. I always get some kind of deal because that’s how I roll as a Super-Saving-Tips kinda guy if ever I decide to actually pay to see a movie. That’s done by taking advantage of senior discounts, two-fers, and all and any discounts available and there usually are discounts if you actually take the time to look. I’ll get back to that point in a moment.

More often than not, lately, we have been enjoying a monthly trip to a current movie sponsored by AARP’s “Movies for Grownups”. That’s a free benefit of being an AARP member for my wife and me to get to see first run great movies for free!

We have seen movies like the premiere of “Black Panther” for one, the biggest movie of 2018, and most recently we saw the redo of “Shaft” just last month! It’s a pretty sweet deal for a $12 / two year membership I purchased for my wife and I (at a discount of course, regularly $16 for just one year). By the way, spouses or partners are free when you join and they don’t even have to be age 50 if you are. But this post isn’t about AARP’s free movies.

An Unexpected Free Movies Surprise

This story is I am about to tell is true, but I am changing the names of everyone and everything to protect the innocent. I didn’t make that up, it comes from the TV show Dragnet, but I am applying it here. Why? Because it’s slightly bizarre and the person who was the decision maker involved may have overstepped his bounds, but the bottom line is that he decided to please his customers despite any rules he might have stuck to. In the long run, he is now my hero and he definitely made my wife and I feel pretty good about his company and him and his staff. So, let me continue…

A few weeks ago, while attending a free movie, we saw the coming attractions of some new movies that would be playing soon. One movie caught our eye, but we put it on the back burner and didn’t think much about it for a while. Because I am a “club member” of a local movie chain, I received an e-mail and saw a promotion for the movie running for a few days that included discounts on tickets as well as a promo on a popcorn and soda combo for just $5 too. That sounded pretty good, so we decided to go and enjoy.

According to the email, the tickets could be purchased either on their app or at the box office, but we decided to go to the box office became there was a convenience fee assessed on the app (spending extra money ruins the discount)! So off we go for the 7:30 pm show.

A Quiet Wednesday Night at the Movies

We pulled into the large, nearly empty parking lot and lucky us, no lines at all at the box office. A nice young lady asked us which of the 18 movies showing we wanted tickets for and my wife simply said we came for the promo on “—————–” (name omitted to protect the innocent) and we wanted one adult and one senior ticket. To our surprise, she told us that we had to have purchased on the app to get the deal. We explained to her that it said “app or box office” in the advertising and she was stumped.

Apparently no one else who had come to see this movie had purchased any tickets at the box office for this promo (in five whole days!) so she referred us to the manager to see what he would do about it. That’s where we met “Horatio” (not his real name, because we want to protect the innocent, remember?).

Customer Service – Does It Still Exist?

You know I spent umpteen years in the retail world and have written about customer service from both sides of the equation, right? Based on my experience, I was all set to go a few rounds with Horatio, a very well dressed young man who was in charge of the theater that evening. I took the lead and briefly explained, hoping he’d be able to quickly get it resolved.

At first, he seemed like he was completely in tune, but as he searched his computer for info on the promo, he failed to find any bulletins in his emails about it. I told him that I had also seen it on the company website and so he began to search until he found it on there, but no record of any memos of any kind to his email at all. In fact, as he was talking, he mentioned that he was completely unaware of anyone who had tried to buy any tickets at the box office for the deal at all. The longer we stood there, the more I was mentally preparing to hear him say there was nothing he could do and then I would have to decide just how far to press the issue.

What to Do?

After a few minutes, Horatio took charge. I said to him, “Can’t you just manually adjust the ticket prices into the computer for us now that you have seen the ad?” He turned and said:

“No problem. In fact, because of your inconvenience, I am going to give you both tickets for free! And, the $5 popcorn and soda deal, that’s free for you both as well.”

Wow, that’s customer service to the max! You could have knocked me over with a feather. Horatio had done something really cool and decisive. I am certain it’s not written anywhere that he had to do what he did, but he did what every good manager should do and that is that he insured that his customer was happy and wouldn’t have the slightest bad feeling from the experience.

I’d say my faith in mankind has been restored, but that is probably way overboard. But I will say this: Horatio is a great manager and he will go far in this or any other service business he manages. He did something right and he fixed the wrong. For a relatively young person with (probably) not a lot of these kinds of experiences, he definitely got the message, and now I’m telling you.

Final Thoughts

The popcorn tasted especially good and the soda was extra tasty as we sat and watched our free movie. The movie may not have been the best I have ever seen, but it might go down as the most memorable one I have seen a quite a while.

One lesson I learned that night was this one which Horatio told me. He said that “so many people don’t read or look for the deals that [he wasn’t] surprised that no one else in five days had asked about the box office special and the $5 popcorn and soda deal”. He hadn’t had one person ask about it and this theater has 18 cinemas so it’s not some out-of-the-way unknown place. It’s part of a national chain. Go figure, right? Is looking for a bargain going the way of so many of the things that used to be of value? I hope not.

Do you look of the deals when you shop or go out for fun? If not, why not? Do you stand up for your rights when things aren’t as advertised? Is money savings on your radar or are you uninterested so that there will never be a “Horatio” experience on your horizon?


  1. Paul Kim

    That’s awesome, Gary! Movie tickets are getting really expensive here that we’ve been going less and less. I’m going to Google some apps that offer deals and check them out. For some reason, never even thought about looking for them. Thanks so much for the heads up!

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