It’s funny. If someone suggested that my kids and I spend one summer morning a week on the couch, watching an old movie together, I would laugh and say that’s not a valid use of our time. We have lots and lots of movies on Netflix, so it’s a frugal activity, but no go. And yet, I happily brought the three of them to watch the abomination that is The Smurfs at the Alameda Theater yesterday.
Of course, going downtown and sitting in front of the giant screen is more of an event. I told myself that at least this has the benefit of helping the kids learn how to behave in a movie theater. (They did GREAT, by the way, and I am very proud of them. Toth had to be reminded a few times to sit on his seat instead of hanging on the metal railing directly in front of us, but otherwise, I barely had to speak to them at all.)
It’s not really an issue here in the Bay Area, but for those of you who are sweltering this summer, a cheap movie is generally a nice air conditioned place to hang out.
So this is a little reminder that if you have children on your hands this summer, or if you are looking for cheap activities for a sitter to take them to, look for your local kids’ summer movie program. The Frugal Girls have a handy list of links to the various theater chains that have such programs, nationwide.
Here in Alameda, Cal., the program was an even better deal than what I’m used to back in Chicago. You can pay $2 per person for each movie at the box office, or you can go to any of several local organizations and buy a pass to the whole series — for just $5 a person for nine movies!
Some areas even have kids’ summer movie programs for free. Alameda does have a free movie in the park coming up Friday night (Tin Tin).
Once you’ve procured your cheap movie tickets, only two questions remain:
1) Will you spring for the discounted snack pack?
2) How will you entertain yourself while your kids watch the movie?
For me, the answer to 1 is usually no. Lots of more gracious moms than me figure that the theater is being nice enough to open their air conditioned rooms to us for nearly nothing or for charity, so we should thank them with a purchase. But if I bought one of those $3.50 snack packs for each of my kids, this is no longer a frugal activity for me. If I’m going to spend $13.50, I’d rather go out to lunch after the film. (Which is what we did, at a bagel store, for almost exactly that price.)
Besides, one of the things they are learning while visiting the theater with me is the cheapskate art of smuggling snacks into movie theaters.
No. 2? Smart phone. I wouldn’t be so rude as to spend a regular movie with the screen of my phone lit up, but come on, this is the kiddie movie, and I saw lots of phone screens alight throughout the theater. I did watch The Smurfs, but it was more fun while posting snarky comments about the films, ahem, strengths and weaknesses on Facebook.