Watch movies on the cheap (or free!) all summer long

May 7, 2019 by David Riedel

To paraphrase Alice Cooper, school’s nearly out for summer. For those of you with young kids  up to tweenagers, the challenge isn’t keeping them entertained; it’s keeping yourself from going insane.

With that in mind, there is a solution. Depending on where you live, you can take your kids to see family-friendly movies (not first-run usually, sorry), and it’s inexpensive. For example, the Cinemark chain has a summer schedule of 10 movies that cost $1 per person, or $5 if you purchase a pass to see each film.

Maybe it’s a cop-out to stick the kids in a movie theater during summer break, but look at this way: They’ll be occupied for roughly two hours, it’s air conditioned, and Cinemark has participating locations in more than 30 states. (In case you’re wondering, no, this isn’t a promotion.)

Regal has a similar set-up called “Summer Movie Express.” Check to see whether there’s anything playing near you.

Ever heard of Harkins Theatres? No? Then you must not live in Arizona, Colorado, California, Oklahoma, or Texas. Like the chains above, Harkins has a summer movie program called “Summer Movie Fun” that runs for 10 weeks for roughly $1 per film. Check their schedule here.

And just in case you’re wondering, AMC has Summer Movie Camp, with participating theaters in more than 30 states. These screenings will run you $4 (plus tax) and take place on Wednesday mornings. Click the link to find a spot near you.

But let’s say you don’t want to pony up $4 for a movie. I get it; who wants to pay to see Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation? (Not me.) I did some googling and found free summer movies in the five following metropolitan areas.

Greater Salt Lake City has a plethora of free outdoor family movies in the city itself and the surrounding suburbs. Most of them are outdoors at dusk, and they’re all free. (I wrote a piece about it recently; check it out here. Worth noting: The outlet that published this story is an alt-weekly, so there’s some swearing in the article for those who want to avoid those sorts of things.)

Seattle Metropolitan area – There are free movies in and around the city. See a comprehensive list here.

Greater Boston area – I threw this in because greater Boston is my area, and there’s nothing a New England Yankee likes better than something – anything – free. There are movies at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade (locals know what that means) and at the Boston Harbor Hotel that cost zilch. Click here for more information.

Greater Albuquerque – I have a soft spot for New Mexico. Therefore I googled “Free Summer movies New Mexico” and found this Facebook post for free movies at Rio Rancho Premiere 14. Bernalillo County (Albuquerque’s county) has a free “Movies in the Park” series.

Chicagoland – Yes! They call it that and not “Greater Chicago.” As a son of the Midwest it makes perfect sense to me even if it does come across as something a bumpkin would think was clever. Anyway, there are 13 free movies playing throughout the summer at Millennium Park.

Five cities, five lists of free movies. The search took me about 10 minutes so I’ll bet your area will be easy to investigate, too. Movies outside in the park are a joy: A picnic blanket (and ants), popcorn, and a nice breeze (and, if you’re lucky, Ghostbusters), makes a great evening with the family.


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