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Friday, December 21, 2012

Going to the movies in Panama

Yesterday afternoon I made the mistake of taking all four of my kids to the theater to see The Hobbit. The girls, 8 and 10 years old, were fine, but my twin 4 year olds drove me nuts. Three hours, three potty breaks, and twenty-five "Can we go home now's" later and I was about to pull my hair out. While I was standing in line, ready to pay, I realized the theater's web site lied, and the non-3D, English version of the movie, started a half-hour later than expected. As I checked the sign over my head, I thought, "Hmm, I wonder how many people don't know what to look for on these signs?" So let's talk about that and some other helpful hints for visiting a Panamanian movie theater, referred to as a "ciné" here.

Movie listing at Cinépolis at Metromall

Most adult movies, or anything rated above "G," are in English with Spanish subtitles. Most, not all. So it's important that you know how to figure this out. The first time I visited Panama I got stuck sitting through a movie in Spanish...and it sucked. Looking at the sign in the photo above, you'll notice that off to the right hand side, all of the movies have either "SUB" or "DOB" next to them. SUB is short for subtitulos, meaning the movie will be in English with Spanish subtitles. DOB is short for doblado, meaning the movie will be dubbed in Spanish (and it won't have English subtitles). Popular movies will usually have both options, like you see for The Hobbit. 

You may have also noticed that some of the movie titles on the sign are in Spanish. This doesn't necessarily mean the movie is dubbed in Spanish. For example, "Fin Del Turno," is the gritty cop movie "End of Watch" with Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. Even though the title is listed in Spanish, if you look to the right you'll see that it says "SUB," so it's in English, with Spanish subtitles. 

Spanish movie titles crack me up because they're so literal. For example, the movie Titanic would probably be the Spanish translation of "A big boat that sinks" or "Love on a boat." The comedy movie The Hangover was translated "Qué Paso Ayer?" which means, "What Happened Yesterday?"

One thing that sucks, if you have small children, is that it's really hard to find a cartoon with spoken English. Almost all of the cartoons are in Spanish. Sometimes, at the Cinépolis in Multiplaza Mall, the cartoons playing in the VIP theater are in English. This only happens every once in awhile, and it's expensive. Something else you'll need to get used to is the use of subtitles. If you're watching a movie in English, it will have Spanish subtitles at the bottom of the screen. You'll just have to learn to live with it.

Cinépolis at Metromall

The entry free is still extremely cheap compared to U.S. standards. I'll never forget the first time I took my daughters to see a movie here. It was a Wednesday night, which is discount movie night here. I had no idea. I told the lady I needed to pay for 1 adult and 2 children. It came out to just over $6. I had to tell her again how many people I was paying for, sure that the $6 was only going to cover my ticket. She understood me fine. Each ticket came to $2.25. I was blown away. When we lived in Chicago, I paid over $60 (parking, entry, and snacks) to take the same two little girls to see Iron Man. With snacks and everything I probably didn't pay more than $15 that night in Panama. 

The two main movie theaters in Panama are Cinemark and Cinépolis. Most of the malls in Panama have one of the two located within. I'll use the Cinépolis website to give you some of the prices. The Cinépolis in Multiplaza Mall has a VIP section (more comfortable chairs and food delivered to you). The most you'll pay in Panama is $15 per ticket, but that's for a 3D movie in the VIP section. A regular VIP seat will cost $13, only $7.50 for seniors over the age of 60, and $6.50 for children. These are the fancy seats though, folks. You can pay much much less here to see a movie. 

A regular adult ticket at Cinépolis is only $4.25 and only $2 for seniors over the age of 60. The cheap Wednesday tickets I mentioned before only cost $2.50 per adult. Oh, and if seniors over the age of 60 get to the movie before 3 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, they only pay $1.75. You can't beat that. Prices vary from that point though, most having to do with 3D and matinees. Since 3D is so popular right now, I'll just mention that the cost of an adult ticket for a 3D movie on a Friday-Sunday evening would be $7.25. Still not bad, considering a regular adult ticket in Chicago cost about $10 when I was there. The prices at Cinemark, the other popular theater in Panama, are about the same.

The concession stands at Panamanian theaters aren't much different from what you're used to in the States or anywhere else. You can buy individual items or combos. The prices have risen recently. While food is still less expensive than what you may be used to paying, I miss the old prices. $5 used to get you a large popcorn and two sodas. The photo below shows the current prices.

As you can see, a large popcorn and two sodas now costs $7.50. So the total for two adults going to see a regular movie, on a Friday night, while sharing a large popcorn and each getting their own soda, would come out to $16 total. That's a cheap date. As long as she doesn't ask to go upstairs to Benihana's after (only at Multiplaza). One of the best things about the theaters here, not for me since I'm diabetic, is the option to have caramel popcorn instead of regular. You can even mix the two. That's cool.

To help you plan your cheap date, I've added the links to the two most popular theaters here in Panama. Just make sure you double check the info when you arrive at the theater. A couple of times I've planned to see a certain movie, then found out it was only available in VIP or 3D, or even worse, Spanish, after arrived at the theater with the kids.

You'll find Cinépolis theaters in Multiplaza Mall and Metromall. Cinemark can be found at Multicentro Mall, Albrook Mall, and at Los Pueblos. Other theaters, such as Extreme Planet along Avenida Balboa do exist, but they're not as popular. 

Go to  to check the listings at Cinepolis. To get movie info you'll want to change the "Ciudad" to "Panama, Panama" in the scroll down menu at the top. Then click "Ver Horarios." 

For Cinemark, go to this website:  Here you will need to choose which theater in Panama you're interested in. Then click on "Ver Horarios." 

Thanks for reading,