50 Free and Cheap Summer Movie Screenings Across America
While summer offers many reasons to be outdoors, it's also the peak season for movie viewing. There will, of course, be the new-ish blockbusters hitting theaters throughout the season, as well as the old classics being shown for far cheaper at parks and other public areas around the nation. Soak up some summer entertainment without spending too much at these free and cheap events.
Starting on various dates in June, Regal theaters around the country will host weekly Tuesday and Wednesday screenings of modern kid-friendly films such as "Trolls," "Kubo and the Two Strings," and "Kung Fu Panda." The family-oriented screenings cost only $1 per person, and since Regal operates the second-largest theater circuit in the United States, the deal might well be available near you.
The many locations of Studio Movie Grill, a theater chain that provides in-seat dining service, will be hosting special screenings of family-friendly films and old Hollywood classics for discounted prices from May until the end of summer. The children's summer series offers $1 matinees, while the classics (many of which star Gene Kelly) cost $5 per admission.
Admission and concession prices plummet on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday morning screenings at Marcus Theatres, a regional chain based in Wisconsin with screens across the Midwest. Tickets are only $3, and popcorn and fountain drinks are $2.75 at the 10 a.m. showings of modern family-friendly fare, starting on June 11 and continuing until Aug. 16.
As part of its larger Summer on the Hudson program, the city's parks department hosts seven weeks of free Wednesday night film screenings starting July 5. Guests begin getting situated on the pier at 6:30, and the films, most of them mainstream and cult classics such as "Blazing Saddles" and "The Big Lebowski," begin at 8:30.
The city's parks department also hosts a more general screening series with Movies Under the Stars, which includes multiple screenings per week from May until Aug. 28. Movies ranging from adult-oriented hits to children's classics are screened throughout the week in outdoor parks in all five boroughs, all for free.
A classic Warner Brothers cartoon short precedes every screening under the stars at HBO's annual Summer Film Festival held in Manhattan's Bryant Park. Audiences start setting up chairs and blankets on the lawn around 5 p.m. for the free screenings at sunset every Monday from June 19 to Aug. 21.
For eight Wednesdays in July and August, the Socrates Sculpture Park becomes a free showcase for international films including "Chevalier" from Greece and "Timbuktu" from Mauritania. The screenings are preceded by a celebration of the national culture reflected in the night's film, featuring musical performances and international cuisine served up by Queens' diverse local restaurateurs.
Rooftop Films and the Alliance for Coney Island put on this eight-week free outdoor screening series steps away from the famous Coney Island beach and boardwalk. A 40-foot inflatable screen transforms the beach into a makeshift movie theater every Monday in July and August. The films begin at 8 p.m.
Yet another free event in an iconic Big Apple location, this program in Brooklyn Bridge Park attracts thousands every Thursday evening in July and August for good reason. Classics from all time periods (from "Casablanca" to "Mad Max: Fury Road") are shown at the Harbor View Lawn beside the Brooklyn Bridge, with the Manhattan skyline looming in the background.
Chicago's primary summer film series spreads its screenings across the entire city, with movies playing in multiple outdoor parks from June through August. The films range from children's movies such as "Sing" to cult classics like "Raising Arizona" and "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg." Each movie is free and begins showing at 8:30 p.m.
Hometown heroes take center stage at Chicago Onscreen, the fourth-annual summer showcase of locally made, Chicago-focused films. From Aug. 29 to Sept. 2, nine neighborhood parks host multiple outdoor screenings of several independent Chicago-centric films of short and feature-length. Admission is free for all screenings.
Classic films return to Chicago's centrally located Millennium Park for its annual summer film series, running every Tuesday from June 13 to Sept. 5. Screenings of favorites such as "The Blues Brothers" and "Caddyshack" are presented for free. The Aug. 8 screening is a spooky double feature of "Ghost" and "The Shining."
One of the city's biggest parks becomes the headquarters of a weekly outdoor film series hosted by Amica Insurance. The screenings cost $5 per person (or free for children under 5) and start on July 6 with "Rogue One." In addition to the films, there are trivia raffles, live entertainment, and onsite food trucks in a city well known for great mobile eats.
In the shadow of the Space Needle and other iconic Seattle attractions, this popular and absolutely free screening series takes place on Seattle Center's sloping Mural Amphitheatre lawn. For five Saturdays starting July 29, Movies at the Mural will showcase five all-ages movies, including recent films such as "La La Land" and older ones such as "The Princess Bride" and "Clue."
For summer 2017, this annual series in St. Louis' Forest Park honors the glamorous costumes of Hollywood with free Friday screenings of films such as "Titanic" and "To Catch a Thief." A food-truck fest takes place in advance of each film. Alcoholic beverages and other concessions can be purchased at onsite booths.
Started in 2007 with only 13 film screenings, Portland's Movies in the Park series has grown to include 40 movies shown at 41 different sites in the city, all within a 10-week timeframe. Every screening is free and is preceded by live musical performances as diverse in style as the film selections themselves.
The Ferry Lawn of Oakland's Jack London Square hosts Waterfront Flicks, a free series of seaside screenings starting June 8 with the Prince-starring favorite "Purple Rain." Moviegoers can arrive early for waterfront dining as well as pre-screening trivia and giveaways. Screenings run every two weeks until Aug. 17.
The boardwalk roller coaster and Pacific sunset provide an idyllic California background for Santa Cruz's free Wednesday night film screenings, which start June 21 and continue for nine weeks until Aug. 16. Each show includes an intermission, allowing guests the chance to buy boardwalk snacks, such as kettle corn and saltwater taffy.
It costs $20 to park a car at the Newport Dunes Marina and RV Park at Newport Beach, south of Los Angeles, but it's free to attend its film screenings every Friday and Saturday from May through September. Bundle up in a beach blanket and enjoy family-oriented films new and old with the sound of rolling ocean waves in the background.
Children and adults can swim in the public pool at Irvine's William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center for only $2 and $4, respectively, and on Aug. 26, they all can enjoy a free screening of the aquatic-themed Disney film "Moana" projected right by the pool while they wade. It's a unique way to beat the heat and celebrate the encroaching end of summer.
The Orange County Great Park in Irvine hosts two free film screenings for four weekends starting May 26, with flashback Fridays highlighting older classics and blockbuster Saturdays featuring more-recent family-friendly hits. Moviegoers can set up lawn chairs or picnic blankets for the sunset screenings and purchase concessions from the onsite food trucks and snack bar.
The Liberty Station location of San Diego's Stone Brewing World chain welcomes moviegoers as well as drinkers every Tuesday in summer starting June 6. Cult classics such as "The Big Lebowski" and "Snatch" show for free 15 minutes after sunset, but you'll want to arrive earlier for a good seat and a few signature craft beers.
The Hatch Shell at Boston's Esplanade along the Charles River makes a perfect venue for WBZ Radio's annual summer film screenings. The free screenings occur at 8 p.m. each Friday from June through August. This year's schedule includes family-friendly movies such as "Sing" and "The Secret Life of Pets."
Bring blankets and picnic baskets to Philadelphia's Schuylkill Banks any Thursday from June 1 to Aug. 10 for a riverside screening of time-tested favorites such as "The Sandlot" and "Rear Window," as well as newer films such as "Hidden Figures" and "Finding Dory." All screenings are free and occur alternately at the Wharton Street Esplanade and the Walnut Street Bridge.
Near Houston, Katy's own Central Green Park hosts free screenings of favorites such as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and "Up" on intermittent Fridays and Saturdays throughout the summer. The modest park is filled with picnic blankets and lawn chairs on screening nights and is surrounded by dining options.
This series at Austin's Long Center for the Performing Arts features a view of the city skyline and classic films preceded by live music. Bands start at 7:30 p.m. and the films around 9 p.m. every other Wednesday in summer, leaving extra time for viewers to patronize the food trucks or buy a craft beer at the Long Center.
El Salido Pool on the outskirts of Austin lets families make the most of their summer nights with Float Flicks, a series of three family-friendly films shown on an outdoor movie screen beside the pool. Screenings are free and occur at 8:15 p.m. on the second Friday of June, July, and August.
Normally a hub for youth rugby, Infinity Park in Glendale becomes one of Colorado's largest movie theaters for a few Mondays each summer. Residents vote on the films they want to see in April and May, then turn up for free 7:30 p.m. screenings of the films they chose.
Northglenn Arts' summer movie series kicks off July 28 with "Moana," the first in a line of four recent family-friendly films showing at dusk on Fridays at Northglenn's E.B. Rains Jr. Memorial Park. Admission is free and seating first-come, first-served.
One corner of the expansive Town Brookhaven shopping center near Atlanta is devoted to sunset film screenings for the summer. Explore the shops any Thursday between June 1 and July 27 (except July 6) before settling in for the family film showing on Peachtree Road, adjacent to Oglethorpe University.
The Phoenix Art Museum invites the public to a free monthly series of three screenings held on Wednesday evenings at 6:30. The films chosen for the themed series, including Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator," are all classics with socio-political messages that still resonate.
Food vendors and a petting zoo add to the Friday night festivities at Lexington's Jacobson Park. From June 2 to June 30, movie fans can set up lawn chairs amidst the concession stands for free screenings beginning after sundown. This year's series starts with "Beauty and the Beast."
Every screening is a full-fledged community event at the Open Air Film Fest in Baltimore's Little Italy. The free movies are projected on the outside wall of Ciao Bella Restaurant every Friday at 9 p.m. from July 7 to Aug. 25. Free popcorn is provided, along with live music from local singer Mario Palumbo.
The movie nights held at Washington's National Harbor have already begun and will continue every Sunday until the end of September. There are five dates with double features, and the family-friendly selections are screened for free within walking distance of many dining establishments.
Blockbusters of the recent and not-so-recent past are shown beneath the stars at Washington's Canal Park nearly every Thursday in summer, from the new "Ghostbusters" on June 1 to the new "Beauty and the Beast" on Aug. 17. Films are chosen by public demand and start screening at sundown.
Washington's tight-knit NoMa neighborhood puts the spotlight on political films such as "Wag the Dog" and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" for its 13-week Summer Screen series. Live music, giveaways, and food-truck fare precede the sunset screenings happening every Wednesday in June, July, and August at NoMa Junction in Storey Park.
Enjoy a bottle of wine with your popcorn at the Wine Bin's summer movie nights starting this weekend. Free screenings occur just outside the wine store in Ellicott City every Saturday until Sept. 28, with the films including hits as modern as "La La Land" and as well-aged as "Roman Holiday."
The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization hosts two free movie nights in Arlington every week for the summer, and this year both are celebrating the films released 30 years ago in 1987 -- or at least thereabouts. Catch classics such as "Wall Street," "Dirty Dancing," and more on Thursdays at Arlington Mill or Saturdays at Penrose Square.
More than a century of free entertainment in Minneapolis parks continues into 2017 with different movies being screened almost nightly in more than 30 city parks from early June to late August. Don't miss the Twin Cities Black Film Festival slated for June 27 at Father Hennepin Bluff Park. It's also part of the free series.
The Garden Theatre near Orlando hosts its own kid-friendly summer movie series with Tuesday matinees of recent children's films such as "The Lego Batman Movie" from June 13 to July 25. Each $2 ticket includes a free kid-sized concession combo of popcorn and fruit juice. The theater is also selling $35 tickets that allow access to every Thursday screening in its eight-week vintage-favorites summer series.
A balanced combination of modern hits and Hollywood classics will be screened for free throughout the summer as part of Portland's annual Films in the Square series. All screenings take place at Congress Square Park, with Portland's historic Old Port district providing a scenic backdrop.
Iowa City's free outdoor movie series runs Saturdays in summer from June 10 to Aug. 26. Each Saturday screening features a classic or contemporary film projected on an inflatable screen set up beside the University of Iowa campus. Some form of live entertainment will precede most films, which begin showing at sundown.
Casper's Studio City Cinema offers many opportunities to see kid-friendly fare each week of the summer with its Monday-through-Thursday matinee screenings, featuring a new family film each week. Season tickets to see all 11 movies shown for the series cost only $8, while any individual screening goes for $3.
Local theater and community arts hub SCERA in Orem offers several summer events perfect for price-minded moviegoers. Cinema classics show on Friday mornings for $2 admission all summer, while classics new and old are featured its six-week outdoor screening series. One screening costs $4 per adult, or you can purchase one ticket to attend all six for only $12.
Grown-ups can sample from local food vendors while kids can play in the fountain of Myriad Gardens in Oklahoma City before the free weekly screenings happening every Wednesday night from June 21 to July 26. Pre-show activities begin at 8 p.m. and the films, all released within the past few years, start at 9 p.m.
The city of Edmond offers free admission and $1 concessions at its monthly movie screenings, which take place alternately at MAC Amphitheater and Stephenson Park on the second Friday of each month until Aug. 11. Movies begin at dark, and all proceeds from food sales go to a local non-profit.