I’m going to sound like a crotchety old man for a minute here — but it’s my blog and I can write what I want. Movies are too damn expensive.

One of the luxuries of working from home is that when a friend calls me at 2 o’clock to go see a movie, I can do it. So when Paul called yesterday to ask if I wanted to see Burn After Reading, I said, “Sure.”

Not so long ago, Kris and I were avid movie-goers. Once or twice a month, we’d catch a new film. As we’ve flexed our frugality muscles, however, we’ve fallen out of the habit. Mostly we stay at home and watch movies from Netflix. When we do go out, we make a point of hitting the cheap theaters. It hurts less to pay $4 to see Indiana Jones than to pay $9.50.

But when Paul and I looked for a venue yesterday, none of the cheap places were showing Burn After Reading. The closest theater playing the film was part of the Regal chain, which I generally avoid on principle. Yesterday was a good reminder of why that’s the case.

Here’s a quick run-down of my expenses at the Regal-owned “Hilltop 9″:

  • One movie ticket (matinee) = $7.50
  • One “medium” diet soda (44 ounces, or about 1.25 liters) = $5.00
  • One order nachos = $6.25 (and I only ate about half!)
  • One box Raisinets = $3.50

I paid a total of $22.25 to watch a 96 minute movie (plus about 20 minutes of loud in-your-face pre-film advertising). Wow. Not very frugal. ($14.75 for refreshments! In retrospect, I’m amazed at myself.)

Now obviously I chose to pay $22. Nobody forced me to spend this much — I’m not denying that. But you can bet I won’t be doing this again for a long, long time. I’ll stick to the second-run movie houses and the bargain theaters, of which there are many in Portland. Some of my favorites include:

It would be fine to spend $22 to see a movie if that’s what I valued. But it isn’t. I’d rather save my money to splurge on other things. $22 would buy a nice meal. It would pay for five lunches at the local taco stand. $22 is about the price of a new comics compilation. $22 would buy one-tenth of one percent of a new Mini Cooper. I value a trip to the movies at about ten bucks, not $22.

When I told Kris about my movie-going experience, she too was shocked. “That’s insane!” she said. “That’s more than an entire month of Netflix. In fact, you could watch the entire month of Netflix and buy a bag of popcorn and buy two liters of diet soda.”

Indeed.

(Bonus ten-second movie review: Burn After Reading is goofy fun, but it lacks punch, and the ending is weak. It’s no Fargo or No Country for Old Men, and it’s certainly no The Big Lebowski.)

This article is about Choices, Frugality, Odds and Ends, Real-Life