How Do You Avoid The Cinema Ticket Queue?

How Do You Avoid The Cinema Ticket Queue?

You’re ready for a big-screen experience, but there’s one annoyance to overcome: all those people in the queue ahead of you. What are your best tactics for cutting down on how long it takes to get the ticket?s

Picture by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

I’ve been thinking about this after reader Tim sent in his favourite trick for faster movie tickets:

If there is a long line at the cinemas to buy tickets, you can usually bypass the queue by buying them from the candy bar where there is almost always no line! I know it works with Event Cinemas in Australia.

This can indeed work well, but only if your cinema operates that way. Some cinemas only sell food at the candy bar; smaller regional cinema often have a single counter that sells everything.

Another popular tactic is to book in advance online and pick up your tickets at the cinema, where there’s often (but not always) a separate window. The potential disadvantage there is that you can get hit with booking fees that don’t apply if you buy on the spot.

How do you minimise cinema queuing time? Tell us in the comments.


  • I almost always book online, and have for just about as long as that option has been available. At the cinemas I usually go to, there’s a self serve kiosk for picking up tickets booked online, usually with no queue — or at worst, a one minute wait. Event Cinemas is usually a little slower, but it’s still pretty quick compared to buying your tickets in person.

    As I said earlier, I’ve booked online for just about as long as that option has been available. A couple of months back, I had a free ticket that could only be redeemed in person, so I was forced to stand in line. I had no idea how bad it had gotten: I was standing in line for almost twenty minutes!

    Booking online may cost a dollar more at some certain chains (such as Event), but getting twenty minutes of my life back is easily worth the extra dollar.

    • this, ive done the same and the amount of times ive seen massive lines waiting to buy tickets and chuckled is rather high also the amount of times ive seen half that line turned away because the cinema is full is pretty high too

      • Yes i always book online too but there are times when I’ve suddenly decided on a whim to see a movie so going to the candy bar would be faster than waiting for Event’s god awful mobile site to load.

        But if i’m at home yeah booking online is always the best. Walking down the VIP isle always feels good when there’s a long queue:)

    • I hate booking online out of principle.. I have to pay an extra dollar so they can get a computer to do the work and shaft some teen out of their job?

      • Agreed! Self Serve tickets should be cheaper. You’re making several savings in terms of staff overheads, sales terminals, guaranteed ticket sales and even rental fees since they don’t need as large a floor space for you to queue!

      • Well with Event cinema’s you still have to pick up your ticket from the box office so that teen is still there to do his/her job to help you. I’d say paying an extra dollar to guarantee the seat you want or getting a ticket at all is worth it. Also you get online priority to skip the regular line. I think I paid with paypal last time and it offered me a special deal at the candy bar.

        • Not all Event Cinemas, Event Cinemas at Bondi Junction in Sydney have machines set up and you can use the printed receipt or your phone to get into the theatre.

  • unfortunately none of the cinemas in tassie (that ive been too) are big enough to have separate counters 🙁

    best way to avoid ticket lines is just to buy them online and use your phone as a ticket, if your cinema doesn’t do this then you need a new cinema, village for instance you order them online they email you pdf tickets, you dont have to print these though just open the pdf on your phone zoom in one barcode and the ticket tearer just scans it (im pretty sure the mobile version on the site just gives you a QR code to have scanned but ive never used it so), this comes with the added benefit of not being in anyway tempted or offered ridiculously priced cinema food

  • I buy my tickets online every time. I either print out the ticket (if I’m at work) or just take a barcode with me on my phone and I never have to line up. In fact, I don’t think I’ve lined up for tickets for a good year or so now. I still have to line up for my choc top though. 🙁 They should just hand those things out when you walk into the theatre.

  • We tend to go every Monday to Palace/Nova in Adelaide (it’s their cheap $8 ticket day, or $11 for 3D), to a 6pm-7pm session. Usually the queues aren’t very big at that time of night, unless there’s a big blockbuster release (e.g. The Dark Knight Rises two weeks ago). In that case, we tend to wait a week or two – we saw TDKR last night, and easily got good tickets with no queue, and the cinema was about half full.

  • I work in town so I go over during my lunch break and buy tickets for the evening show to watch after work. It has been working well for me. I find Monday Tuesday and Wednesday to be very good for this. Thursday is the first day of a switch over to new movies which makes it more crowded in line.

  • More importantly in my opinion is minimising movie cost. You can buy a book of 10 Hoyts adult tickets for $125 (not redeemable after 5pm on Saturday though) which are valid for 6 months. And Hoyts finally have CineVouchers that can be redeemed online too. Have to pay an online booking fee and there’s a $3 surcharge for 3D movies, but the savings added up pretty quickly for me and my partner. We’ve probably seen 25 movies this way, which is a saving of $325.

    Village have similar offers for bulk tickets too. And you can find better deals than the $125 through some member award programs (mastercard applause for instance).

  • I always book online and pick up the tickets. I negate booking fees by going through Optus Movie Rewards for Event Cinemas (you don’t need to confirm your number to sign up, just anyone’s random optus number). For Hoyts I book through Bupa/Infinite Rewards/Hoyts Loyalty Program (free ticket on sign up), or Student Edge Card. Haven’t paid more than 10 bucks for a ticket for a long while….except Dark Knight Rises….that movie deserved my money 😛

  • Hoyts reward scheme costs $10 per year, but one of the joining/renewal perks is a free ticket. One of the ongoing perks is the $10 movie of the week.
    The usefulness of this is going to be really dependant on what movies are selected each week.
    There are also a number of early release member-events, which are $10 each as well.

    These still attract a $1 service fee per ticket when purchasing online, but $11 tickets aren’t too shabby.
    Lastly, every dollar you spend on tickets and candy par converts to “points” – which can be redeemed to pay for tickets or candy bar stuff – including online (you can’t use them to pay for the service fee though).

    I’ve worked in retail environments that have reward schemes, I’ve entered into a number as a customer, and my wallet has it’s fair share of “loyalty” cards. This is definitely one of the best reward schemes that I’ve seen.

  • What I do:
    – Secure a good seat by buying online (the $1.10 fee is crazy, but being a student it only costs me $6.50 anyway)
    – Rock up 10-15 minutes AFTER movie start time to skip the line, ads and trailers.
    – NEVER EVER buy food at the cinema! 7eleven is right next to the cinema I go to anyway…
    – Avoid Thursday nights and Saturdays.

    • if you are with Optus, you can sign up for Optus deals with event cinemas and pay $10 for a ticket online including booking fees, the ticket will cost extra if its vmax but it still ends up cheaper than the actual ticket.

  • I find the candy bar has a line that’s always the same or bigger than the ticket line.
    At least at peak times.
    During peak times I always buy tickets online – (though I always complain about the booking fee)
    Or I buy the tickets before dinner if I happen to be out for food + movie.

    • Also there are lots of different programs that sell $10-$12 tickets but you usually have to buy in bulk (10+) and usually they have to be sent to you so you need to buy them in advance.
      If you go to the movies a lot then go get yourself one of these programs. Like the “entertainment book”
      I think that one gives you $10 Village movie tickets + $2 postage. The book costs $65 so you end up better off once you by 10 tickets or more. The book lasts 1 year and has a ton of other restaurant and fast food discounts.

  • My technique: I join the long queue, and at the same time start the online purchasing process on my smartphone

    Within a few moments I’ll get a vibe for how fast the queue is progressing, then make a judgement if it’s worth paying the extra $2 per ticket to purchase online, then make a snap decision on the spot depending on whether I feel like waiting or not.

    If I end up purchasing online I would then walk upto the online purchase counter/machine (which usually has a queue of 0 or 1) and collect my tickets immediately.

  • Despite having to drive an hour to get to the nearest Event Cinemas, our family still spends a lot of time there. Depending on the situation, I find the easiest thing to do, as mentioned several times already is to book online.
    Otherwise I always go the cinema first, pre-purchase my tickets well in advance of my intended screening, go shop, eat dinner, and return to the cinema. When I walk in and see a big queue I always smile and head straight for the ticket taker.

  • I would rather watch a movie on a black and white television at Grandma’s house if it meant I avoided having to use the Event Cinema’s website!

    I am convinced they have a team of staff ensuring any usability is removed from the site and the process is as difficult as humanly possible. Their cinebuzz membership is a dogs breakfast, lucky dip to see if they are going to bother crediting me with points for a particular movie and if I do get the points then they ensure that the process of redeeming any offer they have is almost impossible to work out how to redeem.

  • Makes me appreciate cinplex in brisbane. Best cinemas, $5.50 student tickets ($6.50 on wknds), and only a 70c booking fee per online booking – not per ticket

    • I used to go to Cineplex too, but once I found out it’s only $6.50 at Event in the Myer Center, it was a no brainer — Event has much better toilets, seats, screens, and movie rewards… plus you can choose your seat (saves you rocking up 30 minutes early just to get a good seat and then having to sit through 20 minutes of ads/trailers). Not to mention, Cineplex is worse than a Parkway Drive moshpit when it gets busy.

      Although, Cineplex does have awesome and cheap choc tops 😀

  • Set up a home theatre. No queues, no distractions. I have to wait for movies on Blu-Ray, but I’ve found in the last two years that I don’t care that much about the wait once a movie has been out for about two weeks.

  • I work for Event. My only concern about this is that customers abuse the system. If scoop alley (the candy bar) is full you should wait. People wait for a ticket and then wait for popcorn. Its not fair if you cut the line. If its made clear that the ticket box is closed then by all means go ahead.
    I know the event site sucks, but buying you seat online means you can get in almost straight away with no hassle!

    • I may have misunderstood you, but are you saying that we should feel sorry for the idiots that waited in line for a movie ticket and then waited in line again for the popcorn and let them go first when buying a ticket at the candy bar? Hellll no. If they’re too dumb and decide to wait in two lines, too bad so sad for them.

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