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Going To The Movies On The Cheap In Chicago

By Joel Wicklund in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 9, 2014 8:00PM

Audience at an advance screening of "Bad Words" at Doc Films (from Doc Films Facebook page).

With streaming services, more on-demand options, and file sharing (legal or otherwise), not to mention the good old public library, it's never been cheaper to watch movies at home. However, if you are loyal to the tradition of "going out to the movies," first of all, God bless you, and secondly, you know it can be kind of expensive.

To be fair, compared to concert tickets or eating out anywhere beyond fast food options, going to movie theaters is still one of the more affordable ways to enjoy an evening out. But with wages stagnant for most Americans and many theaters moving toward a more upscale model, moviegoing seems in danger of no longer being the casual, affordable entertainment option enjoyed for generations.

But damn it, real movie lovers are not going down without a fight! So here are a few practical ways to see movies cheaply in Chicago, on the big screen, and get the hell out of your house for a while.

Best overall movie value:
Doc Films at the University of Chicago - Quarterly Pass

We've mentioned them here before, but the incredible programming and low prices at Doc Films are worth repeating. Admittedly, the location isn't convenient for a lot of people, but it's worth the effort, especially if you can go often and buy Doc's quarterly membership pass. At just $30 (with $2 off if you show a previous quarterly pass), you can see every movie on their seasonal calendar, which comes down to spare change per film. Even the single admission price of $5 is a bargain, especially with so many rarely-screened films on their schedule.
Runner-up: The quarterly pass at Block Cinema at Northwestern's Block Museum of Art. They have a smaller schedule, but the programming is excellent and the $20 pass can break down to just a little over a buck per film.

Cheapest first-run movie tickets:
AMC's Showplace Galewood 14

It's not very scenic, you won't find any indie films here, and when school is out this multiplex in the Belmont Cragin area can be packed with noisy teens. But if you are lucky enough to have a weekday afternoon off or find the right uncrowded movie to attend, this is where you will spend the least to see new mainstream releases. Matinees are currently under $4 ($3.91 to be precise, with AMC's recent change on how they incorporate sales tax in their prices), and evening shows are under $6 ($5.92).
Runner-Up: Discount Tuesdays at Cinemark's Century 12/CineArts 6 in Evanston. Movies in their opening week and some blockbusters are excluded, but the $5.75 all-day admission is a good deal and there are independent films and even the occasional foreign film booked along with the mainstream offerings.

Best second-run or mid-run movie value:
Brew & View at The Vic

Sadly, the era of the $2 or $3 second-run house seems to be over in the city limits, and as noted here recently, the Brew & View is not an ideal venue to watch a movie attentively. Drunken chatter is to be expected, but $5 double or triple features make that more endurable, as long as you pick the right kind of movies. Fortunately, the programming seems to reflect that reality, with well-worn favorites and recent Hollywood escapism the standard selections. With an upgrade to a digital projection system, the movies should also look better than in the past.
Runner-up: Bargain matinees at the Logan ($5.75). As with the Brew & View, this is more a drinking culture than a movie culture, but daytime showings should reduce your chance of inebriated commentary from the masses.