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Take your kid to the movies -- for free

A dozen theater chains offer family summer movie programs. Half are free, and the rest cost as little as 50 cents.

By Donna_Freedman May 25, 2012 6:02PM

Image: Hollywood (© Comstock/SuperStock)My niece will take her two boys to the movies at least 10 times this summer. That sounds expensive, but it won't be: The tickets are only 50 cents apiece thanks to Cinemark's Summer Movie Clubhouse series.

In some areas, parents don't even have to pay the four bits: At least six theater chains are offering movies once or twice a week for free.

Some of the family-friendly titles are "Mr. Popper's Penguins," "Rio," "Hotel for Dogs," "Kung Fu Panda 2," "The Smurfs" and "Rango." Yes, those movies are already out on DVD or available for streaming. But it's fun to see films on the big screen. (Post continues after video.)

Besides, the theater is air-conditioned.

Films for free

Cinemaworld: The seven-week schedule starts June 1. Movies run for seven days at 10 a.m. Note: Kids get in free, but adults must pay $2 or donate a nonperishable pet food item.

Clearview Cinemas: Movies screen at 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays beginning July 11.

Great Escape Theatres: Depending on the theater, screenings take place at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and sometimes Thursdays, beginning in June.

Marquee Cinemas: This chain has not yet announced its summer program details. Check the link again in the near future.

Muvico Theaters: Movies screen at 10 a.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays from June 12 to Aug. 16. Note: The Muvico Village 12 in Fredericksburg, Va., is not participating.

National Amusements: The "Bookworm Wednesdays" reading program at participating Cinema de Lux, Multiplex and Showcase theaters requires kids to submit book reports. Movies screen at 10 a.m. Wednesdays from July 6 to Aug. 10. (The accompanying adult and any children under age 6 get in free, too.)

Not free, but cheap

Carmike Cinemas: The summer movies run from June 7 to Aug. 9 or from June 21 to Aug. 23, depending on where you live. Details vary; check the link for theaters in your region. The $2 admission includes popcorn and a drink.

Cinemark Theatres: Days and showtimes vary; check the link for the Century, Cinemark or Tinseltown theater in your area. You can pay $1 per ticket or $5 for a 10-movie pass.

Classic Cinemas: Movies screen at 10 a.m. every Wednesday (except July 4) from June 13 to Aug. 8. Tickets are $1.

Georgia Theater Company: Program start and end dates vary; follow the link for information on local theaters. Show time is 10 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday; admission is $1.

Harkins Theatres: Movies screen at 9:45 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays (except for Fridays only at the Arcadia 8 in Phoenix). The 10-week series begins on different dates in different cities. Prices range from $5 to $7 per 10-ticket package.

Regal Entertainment Group: Beginning June 5, participating Regal, United Artists and Edwards theaters will show nine weeks' worth of films at 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Admission is $1, a portion of which will be donated to the Will Rogers Institute.

Two things to keep in mind

Don't just drop off your kids. The Harkins chain specifies that a child must be accompanied by an adult. Even if there's no posted policy, don’t leave children on their own. Seriously.

If you're worried about the concession stand busting your budget, try this: Have a really substantial breakfast on movie morning, then give each kid a snack to eat on the way to the theater.

Or you could look at it another way: Since the movie was free, you'll spring for a small treat. Some people think that a movie isn't a movie without popcorn.


More from MSN Money:

May 29, 2012 9:59PM
Donna there is a program via M & M Mars candy that was last year and again this year.  You buy specially marked candies (m & M, twix, milky way, etc.) , take the code that is in the candy to see if you are a winner via their website.  You can win $3, $5 off the price of the movie, or a free ticket or free tickets.  Last year, I won over $600 worth of coupons for the movies and saw all of my movies either for $2.00 or $5.00 (3D movies) and I gave a lot of the coupons away to friends and family since I couldn't use them all.  You could also use the coupons on concessions.   The way I did it was to buy the candy on sale (at Walgreens and CVS when it was on sale for .39 or .59 cents, and buy a lot.  I would give the candy away and keep the codes.  I saved money that way.  I would also see films on Monday -Thursday before the price increase which was cheaper.  Just a tip. 
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.