The dog days of summer are upon us, and what better way to escape the heat than in a cool, dark, air-conditioned theater with a frosty drink in hand and some boom bang on the big screen? But movie ticket prices are steep in Japan, clocking in these days at around 1,800 yen per person. Fellow cheapos, there is just about no reason to pay full price for a flick as Japanese cinema discounts Tokyo.

Photo by Selena Hoy

The theaters know the prices are ridiculous and the major cinema chains (like 109, Aeon, Toho, and Movix Cinemas) offer a hefty handful of discounts available to the frugally-minded customer. Behold:

First of all, we have your basic discounts. Students, seniors, and disabled people can all knock a few hundred yen off the ticket price with a proper ID. Over 55 (or 60, in some cases)? Still have a student ID knocking around somewhere? Have a government issued disability card? All of these will get you in cheaper, ranging from 300-800 yen off.

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For the XX chromosome set, we have Ladies’ Day. Ladies’ Day seems to be Wednesday, and the entry fee is usually about 1,000 yen. Men’s Day specials are less common, but a few theaters offer them too: for example, Shibuya Cine Palace (permanently closed) has Men’s Day on Thursdays, while Cinem@rt in Shinjuku offers dude discounts on Mondays.

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Another popular discount day that seems to be universal is the “First Day” discount, held on the 1st of the month. All the major chains and some of the smaller houses sell tickets on the first for around 1,100 yen. Aeon also does “Happy Mondays”, where all tickets cost 1,100 yen.

Many of the theater chains also have a dedicated “Cinema Day,” with reduced ticket prices one day a month. For 109 Cinemas, it’s the 10th, Toho is cheaper on the 14th, and Movix takes the 20th. Look to pay about 1,100 yen on Cinema Day.

Couples can also benefit from discounts: at 109, the 22nd is Couples’ Day, and it costs 2,200 for the both of you. Most theaters also offer a “Married Couples with at Least One of Ya Over 50” (or so) discount, also 2,200 for the pair. They don’t check ID for this, so you can bring a friend as a date and get away with it. Unfortunately, the theaters don’t seem very hip to homosexuality, and specify that couples should be male-female (although we hear that it is sometimes possibly to both sneak in with a strategic choice of clothing).

In contrast to North America, where late night shows cost premium prices, some theaters in Japan offer “Late Show” prices, for shows starting after 8 p.m. At 109 and Aeon, you can knock 500 yen off the ticket price for these showings. Aeon also gives a 500 yen discount for shows starting before noon.

If you’re a real movie buff, and especially if you tend to frequent the same theaters often, you might want to get a membership card. The joining fee ranges from 100 yen (Movix) to 1,000 yen (109, Kadokawa Cinemas), but will result in great benefits like extra discounts and free movie tickets. Most theaters have a “Members’ Day” (the 19th at 109, Tuesdays at Toho, every day at Kadokawa) where discounts range from 300 to 800 yen off. Cards usually register “points” and after a certain number of points are accumulated, you can get in for free. At 109, it’s 6 points = one free movie entry, and they let your friend’s points be added to your card totals so you can accumulate faster. At 109, members can also use the “Executive Seats” (cushy reclining seats that are akin to first class vs economy on a plane) and “Couples’ Seats” (sofa-like double seats with no pesky cuddle-inhibiting armrest in the middle) for no extra charge, though the membership cardless peons have to pay a premium price for the swanky chairs.

A few more discounts are out there, specific to each theater. My JAF membership gets me 300 yen off a ticket price, and other places have their own extra discounts. Check with your favorite place for their list of bargain prices!

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