Tired of all those earnest, well-meaning stories telling you how to save money on your fuel bill or grocery bill? Time out for some frothier frugality. Here's how to save money on your movie bill.

There are a lot of cheap flicks out there. Keeping them straight is another matter: You have to sort out the "twilite" shows from the "early bird" shows, the coupon books from the discount tickets. But once you do, you'll never have to fork over $4 for a movie again.

Every theater has its own variations on the discount theme, but basically you can beat the system if you:

Seek out one of the few remaining cutrate movie houses around town. Granted, Herndon, Virginia, is not exactly on the beaten path, but so what? At the Herndon Twin, first-run movies cost $2 at all times. This weekend they've got "Kramer vs. Kramer" and "The Island." The Rolling Valley in Springfield is another theater with a regular $2 admission price.

Don't insist on prime-time viewing. Daytime and dinnertime are when you're likely to get the cheapest seats. This Friday, for example, you can see Kubrick's horror movie "The Shining" for only $1.75 by going to the AMC academy's 4 o'clock show. (So you'll have to leave work a little early. You have to make sacrifices if you want to fight inflation.) The price gets even cheaper if you can make the Academy's Wednesday-morning show. Next Wednesday at 10:30 you can see "Fatso," "Star trek" or "Rocky II" for only $1, and they'll even throw in free coffee.

Are under 12, over 65 or a full-time student. Any or all of these conditions entitle you to cut-rate admissions at many area theaters.

Patronize theaters that sell discount ticket books. At the Biograph, for example, a book of ten tickets is $15, which works out to $1.50 a double feature. Using the ticket book this weekend, for example, you can se two classic '30s films, "The Thin Man" and "Dinner at 8," for 75 cents apiece (matinees and midnight shows only, please.)

Rediscover your local library. Virtually all show movies, some recent, ome some vintage, all free. Libraries are great sources for interesting, obsure films, like the 1938 Leslie Howard movie "Pygmalion" showing next Wednesday evening at 7:30 at the Burke Branch Library. The first authorized film version of George Bernard Shaw's play, it was so successful that it was withdrawn from circulation during the 1960s to avoid competition with the musical "My Fair Lady."

Check out area college and university movie houses -- they're either cheap or free. Some programs have shut down for the summer, but American University's free repertory film series is still going strong, Wednesday nights through mid-August (next Wednesday: "West Side Story"). And this weekend, the University of Maryland's Hoff Theater is showing the Alan Arkin film "Simon" for $1.75.

Develop an off-beat taste. At the Casino Royal Theater downtown, "escorted ladies" get to see the x-rated movies for free, anytime. (They really want your business: You also get free parking, and the opportunity to buy or rent X-rated video cassettes in the lobby).