Are Free Movies Worth It?

ID-100154778Some of you might have noticed from Twitter on Monday that I got free passes through, to attend the red carpet premiere of the movie August: Osage County, starring Meryl Street, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, and Juliette Lewis to name a few.

I was skeptical at first thinking, “why would they want regular old peeps at the premiere? Surely they could fill it up with industry types.” But what I found out was the theater, which was located in downtown LA, is huge and they really need people to fill it up. Kind of like seat fillers at the Oscars.

Here is how my evening went: My friend Victoria and I left our corner of LA around 4:30, even though the movie didn’t start until 7:30. I didn’t know what traffic would be like, or if there would be a huge line. Although we had passes, you’re not guaranteed to get in because they always overbook.

Our plan was to scope out the situation, then grab a bite to eat. But when we arrived a little after 5pm, there was already a pretty good-sized line. Not wanting to take our chances, we got in line. I ended up running across the street to a food truck and ordering a burger. Fancy.

We killed time in line chatting, but after awhile my feet started to hurt (because I was wearing heels-they told us to dress up), and I was feeling tired. I should also note that the lineup was on the side of the building, while the red carpet action was in the front, so we couldn’t see any of it.

They finally let us in around 7:15, and at least gave us free popcorn, soda, and water, so that was nice. Our seats were not great even though we got there fairly early. Basically the third row in one of those megaplex theaters with giant screens. Thankfully it wasn’t an action movie or else I might have tossed my popcorn.

Before the movie started, Harvey Weinstein said a few words, then began introducing the cast of the film (where all of a sudden I didn’t mind being in the third row). When they introduced Julia Roberts this girl next to me went completely ballistic and started jumping up and down and yelling, “Julia I love you OMG!” Something to that effect. People laughed and Julia smiled and looked over and waved. Since I was next to this crazy lady essentially Julia waved at me by default. :)

The movie was good, although it left me with just a tiny bit of an empty feeling. But the writing was phenomenal, and the acting was off the charts brilliant.

After, Victoria and I went across the street to the Ritz Hotel and had a drink in the swanky hotel lobby, then checked out the ice skaters at the LA Live skating rink. We paid for our parking ($25) and went home around 11:30 ish.

So all in all are these kinds of movie events really worth it? Meh. I’m not that starstruck where seeing these big named movie stars in person is worth the long wait in line, the cost of food because I couldn’t eat at home, parking, and gas. More than anything it’s a big time commitment. I’d almost rather pay the $14 to buy a ticket with assigned seating, and arrive at the theater five minutes before the movie starts.

Even when they have free movie previews that are closer to where I live, you still have to wait in a long line. I think my tolerance for lines has gone way down as I’ve gotten older.

Here are some folks starring in a little movie I like to call, Link Love. :)

I posted two articles in my sister site Healthy, Fit, and Frugal this week: 1/2 Marathon Training Diaries-Week 7 and How Beach Volleyball Helped Improve My Body Image.

DC from Young Adult Money shows us How to Set Realistic Goals for the New Year.

Shannon from The Heavy Purse explains why Giving and Gratitude Make Christmas Truly Magical.

Brendan takes over his wife Michelle’s blog at Fit is the New Poor to give us a glimpse into his life:  A Day In The Life of the Unemployed.

Done by Forty shares an interesting perspective: One Case of Homelessness.

Eva from Girl Counting Pennies shares with us her Financial and Personal Goals for 2014.

Alexa from Single Moms Income guest posted at Mom and Dad Money this week and tells us her story of How a Single Mother Can Gain Financial Control. BTW, congrats to Matt on the birth of his second child named Nolan!

Carnivals that mentioned BATB this past week. Hope I didn’t miss any!

Reach Financial Independence: Carnival of Financial Independence, 41st edition.

The Wealth Gospel: Spreading the Gospel: Carnival of Financial Camaraderie Edition.

Faithful with a Few: Yakezie Carnival For 12.15.13.

Frugal Rules: Carnival of Financial Planning.

Hope everyone has a great weekend. I’m fighting a stupid cold and working all weekend. Joy! 


Tonya is a video editor/producer and writer living in Los Angeles who enjoys beach volleyball, playing ukulele, and running. To get the latest updates, be sure to subscribe. To support her fundraising efforts to produce more video for this site, please visit her crowdfunding page!

Latest posts by Tonya (see all)

  • Dear Debt

    I’ve been to one free movie and it was crazy waiting for the line and how packed it was. I prefer to see movies at home or in the cheap theater. While it’s “cheaper” to watch a new movie here at $10, that’s still too much for me. Sounds like you had a nice night out though. I hope you get better soon!

    • Tonya

      I like watching from home too but I’m a movie buff and love seeing all the oscar type movies out this time of year. Next up is american hustle.

  • Charles@Gettingarichlife

    I’ve been to a couple of free movies from the radio station because of a friend. Coming an hour before is worth it, I dunno about three hours. I don’t really get star struck unless it’s Ryan Gosling. He is a handsome man.

    • Tonya

      ha ha he is a handsome man!

  • Matt @ momanddadmoney

    The LA life is so glamorous! I think that’s one of those things that I’d like to check out once or twice for actors I really like, but then I’d probably prefer the less costly/time-consuming route as well. Though I would love me some free movie popcorn!

    • Tonya

      Yeah exactly. That was actually my third premiere (the other two were a long time ago when I worked for a movie trailer company-totally different situation) and overall it’s a lot less glamorous than you’d think.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money

    Wow I definitely wouldn’t mind waiting in line to go to a red carpet premier of a movie! I’ve gone to a couple free ones through giveaways but not red carpet premiers. Thanks for the mention and hope you have a great weekend!

    • Tonya

      It’s cool but I think a lot less glamorous then you think it would be.

  • Brian @ Luke1428

    I can relate to your feelings about lines. When I was young I could stand in line for hours to go on rides at amusement parks. Now those same lines pretty much keep me away from amusement parks. Hope you feel better soon.

    • Tonya

      I actually had a line in the piece about how lines at amusement parks is the exception but I deleted it. I love bid rides and scary roller coasters!

  • http://Www.Plantingourpennies.Com/ Mrs PoP @ PlantingOurPennies

    It sounds like something that’s fun to do at least once, but considering it’s not really free after parking, etc it also sounds like a lot of effort. =). Personally I love watching movies on the couch in my pjs and my new air popper popcorn maker makes the whole experience perfect!

    • Tonya

      I like watching movies at home too, but I do also love going to the theater, especially to see all the oscar-type movies out right now.
      This is the time of year I go the most.

  • Leslie Beslie

    I guess we don’t have movie premieres in NY the way LA does, but actors/directors will often be in-person for a q+a after a screening of a new movie. Those are fun and pretty low-key! I went to one for a David Cross movie where him and some other actors talked to us after. There was maybe 30 of us there, so it was pretty intimate. Bonus, that was free too!

    • Tonya

      I did the same thing at Don Jon where Joseph Gordon Levitt spoke after the film, but we still paid to see it. But it was a lot easier and don’t mind paying.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    My wife got to work a few premieres when she worked for DreamWorks years ago and sort of felt the same way at the end of the day. Her highlight was working the Gladiator premier and seeing Russell Crowe, but they were told they couldn’t have any reaction to the stars as they were just supposed to act “normal”. Don’t know that the Julia Roberts lady qualifies for that. ;) Hope you start feeling better soon!

    • Tonya

      Oooh, that’s when he was sexiest. I probably would be offended if people told me that I had to act normal because how else would I act…then of course I see the reaction of that lady next to me and think, “yeah ok.” :)

  • Fit is the New Poor

    Ah! You’re the best! thank you for the link love!

    I would have loved to do the movie premier. They only do them here in Chicago if the movie was shot here.

    • Tonya

      You’re welcome! Honestly it’s really not as glamorous as you’d think.

  • Done by Forty

    Woot! I made the cast! On your mark, get set, and go now…got a dream and we both know now…

    I only went to one free movie and it was for Taxi, that one with Jimmy Fallon and, remarkably, Queen Latifa. It was hilarious for some reason. I think there was some logical fallacy at work because it’s really not some great comedy, but maybe because it was free I really wanted it to be a good experience, or something. Fun times though.

    • Tonya

      I’ve never seen it. :) Although I do love me some Jimmy Fallon though!

  • BrokeMillennial

    They’ve been worth it for me because it wasn’t a red carpet event just a free screening. No standing in line (but no famous people) and I take the subway so no gas or parking issues.

    I made awkward forced eye contact with Adam Scott once during my Letterman days. He was standing next to me (which NEVER happened) so he could watch the musical guest (Tenacious D). When he went to leave I just stared at him until he looked at me and then gave an awkward head nod. Totally worth it!

    • Tonya

      I had to google him but once I did I recognized him. :) I love the totally awkward head nod. We used to have a lot of celebrities come into the studio where I worked at the video game company. And even still with it being such close quarters and not the hoopla that goes along with red carpet premieres, it’s not like you really talk or hang out with them. It’s very weird.

  • alwayshungry4

    That for sure sounds like a time-suck, but wow, so cool to see Julia Roberts in real life! She always seems funny and personable in interviews (Sandra Bullock, too). I would have been excited, though agree I’m not sure it would be worth all the time. Have a wonderful weekend, Tonya – any long runs? :)

    • Tonya

      I love Sandy B too! She seems really down to earth.

  • Shannon Ryan

    It would probably be worth doing once for the experience, especially living in LA. I always get asked by friends, relatives who live outside California if I see lots of famous people. :) But it does sound like it ate up a lot of your day, which I would probably be unwilling to sacrifice regularly. However, having Julia wave at you by default (and she was probably thinking that red-headed woman has hair the same color as my Pretty Woman days) is brag-worthy! Glad the movie was good, heard lots of good things about it. And thanks for the mention – I appreciate it!

    • Tonya

      ha ha! I’m sure she was thinking that. :)

  • Kali @ Common Sense Millennial

    That’s a really cool experience! Thanks for sharing with us :) But I do see where after you’ve done it once or twice, it’s no longer worth the “free” tickets. Like you said, other things add up and it’s a lot of standing around and waiting just to see a movie (although the complimentary popcorn would be nice)!

    • Tonya

      Yeah nice to say you’ve done it but unless it was Ryan Gosling or Reynolds, I probably wouldn’t do it again. :)

  • Debt BLAG

    Wow. Sounds like a great experience. They need to make a room look full so why *shouldn’t* it be you who reaps the benefits?

    • Tonya

      Good point!

  • eemusings (NZMuse)

    I’ve been to a lot of media screenings (but being where we are and given my status, the only one I’ve ever been to where any of the cast attended was Tomorrow when the War Began). Like Broke Millenial, I haven’t been to any actual red carpet ones.

    Movies are super pricey here and I’m stingy, so I’ll take a free movie any day. The last one I went to we got free drinks, popcorn, ice cream and like 5 pairs of LG 3D glasses plus free passes to another movie. But I have definitely learned not to get there too early since waiting around sucks! To be fair, these really ARE free for us since parking is usually free and Auckland traffic isn’t as heinous as LA’s.

    Best event I ever got to go to through work was a Coldplay concert. Freaking amazing.

    • Tonya

      That’s awesome about the coldplay concert! If I went to the free movie screenings around where I live, that would eliminate parking, gas, and food costs, but I’d still have to wait in line. And sometimes I have a hard time finding people to go with me so waiting in line alone sucks. I like movies enough that if I want to see one bad enough, I’ll pay. It’s my #1 favorite source of entertainment.

  • Michelle

    I love free stuff!! If it were a movie without the famous people actually there I may or may not have gone. But, with the actors there, a chance to dress up, and free popcorn-I’m IN!!

  • femmefrugality

    I’ve done free movies through gofobo before! Have had great experiences! But we’re out in Pittsburgh so they’re just pre-releases. I think Tom Cruise came out for a film he made here once a year or so ago, but I wasn’t there, so I have yet to get waved at by anyone like Julia Roberts. But we also miss out on the heinous lines. :)

  • Erin @ My Alternate Life

    I love going to free movies via Gofobo! I was totally signed up for August: Osage County but I mixed up the days and we missed it :(. I want to see it when it comes out (not in theaters though — too pricey!).

  • E.M.

    I’m not a huge movie person at all (I don’t remember the last time we went, maybe the summer?), and it kind of sounds like a hassle. I’m not into celebrities, either, so it wouldn’t have an impact on my decision to go. I also hate wearing heels =). If anything, I’d rather pay for half price tickets and go on my own time without long lines.

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar

    Was it as fun as confusing Jean Chatzky? I’ve never done anything like this except years ago when we went to the Jay Leno show. I think it might be fun once, but I’m with you about wearing heels and standing in line.

  • Stefanie @ brokeandbeau

    I don’t know if I’d go through all that trouble for a free movie but I have done it for free broadway shows- when they were filming for tv and needed an audience- totally worth it. That’s a $100 seat instead of a $15 seat.

  • Debt and the Girl

    Hmm I am really not that star struck either. It sounds like a lot of work just to see some silly celebrity. I once met Kate Hudson when I worked at Starbucks in college. Believe me, it was not all that exciting. Thats cool though that they gave away passes for free.

  • Student Debt Survivor

    I can’t even remember the last movie I saw in a theater, so this definitely wouldn’t be something that would be “worth” it for me. I have almost no patience for lines. When I see a long line at the bus station, I sometimes pay more to take the train.

  • Tahnya Kristina

    Oh I love going to the movies, it’s absolutely one of my favourite things to do. I don’t think I have paid for a movie in the last two years – between perks from my loyalty points cards and bonuses from my office I enjoy going to see free movies. I really want to see August: Orange County because I read an interview with Julia Roberts in Marie Claire magazine. I just saw American Hustle and although I love some Bradley Cooper, the movie was not good.