The cost of going to the movies vs. renting movies at home

Oriental Theater

Updated on December 10, 2021

Everyone knows renting a movie at home is cheaper than going to a movie theater. Given the ever-rising cost of going to movies, I started wondering: how much does it cost to go to a movie (including the costs of refreshments) versus staying home and renting films?

While I don’t have a fancy home entertainment system (just a 32-inch 720p Samsung TV, plus basic cable and a Roku streaming stick), home theater systems nowadays are very capable in picture quality and sound.

Here’s my comparison, based on the price of things here in the Seattle area. Other assumptions:

  • Movie: “Creed.”
  • Snacks: popcorn, soda
  • Assumption I’m watching this film alone
  • Evening showing (though I usually see movies as matinees)
  • Plain 2D version—no IMAX, 3D, or other gimmicks
  • Using Amazon for digital video rental pricing, though any of the major digital video services will work well

Going to the movies

  • Movie: $12 (evening movie ticket price for the theaters near my house)
  • Snacks:
  • Popcorn: $6 (medium size; what the theater near my house charges)
  • Soda: $3 (20 fl. oz./591 ml bottle of soda; price from what I recall from my last trip to the theater)
  • Total: $21

Renting a movie at home

  • Movie: $5 (Amazon rental price, HD)
  • Snacks:
  • Popcorn: $1 (one bag of Pop Secret microwave popcorn, extra butter; price based on a three-pack box)
  • Soda: $1 (half of a 2 liter bottle of Coke or Pepsi; price from last trip to the store)
  • Total: $7


As shown from above, it’s cheaper to rent movies at home by far. I could watch three rentals at home (and eat more snacks) for the price of what a trip to the movies costs. And that’s just for going to the movies by myself. Attending with another person (which I don’t often do) would make an already expensive trip out even moreso.

While there’s ways to save a bit of money (attending matinees, avoiding buying snacks), it doesn’t take away from how expensive the movies are. There’s also the other advantages of watching movies at home:

  • No annoying trailers or ads. I don’t like waiting upwards of 20 minutes for the film to actually start.
  • I can pause the film for breaks (food, going to the bathroom, etc.) whenever I want without missing any plot.
  • Not dealing with possibly annoying other filmgoers.

As for when is a trip to the movies worthwhile? For myself, movies’ main advantage is getting to see a film right away (and on a larger screen) instead of waiting for home video. I usually go to the movies for major blockbusters of interest and some animated films (generally Pixar/Disney ones).

How often do you go to the movies? Do you have a preference between going to a theater or renting movies?

Photo by Anthony Dean.


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Anthony Dean

Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.

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