5 frugal ways to boost summer movie fun

Go beyond the movie theater this summer


Summertime is when Hollywood hits us with its biggest and best movies -- at least the blockbuster special effects powerhouses.

Yes, with its rich history of giving us both barrels this time of year, summer has indeed become a time for movies.

But beyond just going to the movie theater, you can turn the act of going to a summer movie into an event in and of itself. The movie you see needn't be at the top of the summer movie charts.

You can do something very simple and easy, or you can make it an extravagant affair. There are a lot of ways you can make your summer movie viewing a memorable event. The important thing is that you make it a fun occasion for you, your family and friends.

Is movie fun on a budget even possible?

No. 5: Go cheap

Going to the movies isn't cheap. By the time you pay $9 to get in and then get hit with another $15 for popcorn, candy and pop, you've already burned through your entertainment budget for the year.

But you can still get the theater experience without going broke.

Discount (or second-run) theaters can help you catch up on the world of cinema -- but to get that discount you usually have to wait a few weeks.

Normally, a movie gets shown at first-run theaters, where you pay big bucks to see it. But after it's had its run in "regular" theaters, it trickles down to the discount theaters where sometimes you only pay a dollar to see it.

If you're looking for quantity to your summer movies, discount theaters can help you get your fill.

No. 4: Take in a movie in the park

Many cities and their parks departments have movies in the park.

True, it won't be the theater experience with 3D zombies coming through the screen or surround sound or any of the other technological bells and whistles that we get at the theater, and you certainly aren't going to see the latest "Harry Potter" installment, but movies in the park give you a chance to watch an old favorite in a mellow, comfortable environment.

Plus, if the kids get bored, they can run off and start their own de facto soccer game in a nearby field.

The movie is usually shown on the side of a building or on a screen erected for the event. If you pay anything for it, it'll be cheap, but you can bring a cooler, throw down a blanket and enjoy an old classic.

No. 3: Theme a party around your movie

The great thing about technology these days is that more and more of us have kicked-up home theaters. Giant plasma TVs and Blu-ray players are pretty common, so why not invite your friends and family over for a party?

You can go all Martha Stewart and base a party theme on the movie you select -- dress up in your '60s or '70s finery, serve chocolates and shrimp and have a "Forrest Gump" party.

If you want to make your kids happy, get them dressed up as their favorite toy and have a "Toy Story" themed party.

If you were really adventurous, you could turn the themed party into a festival: Rather than just watch one movie, why not watch all the "Star Wars" movies? If you have some especially geeky friends, the costumes alone will be priceless.

No. 2: Go to a drive-in movie

In the late 1950s, drive-in movie theaters were everywhere. But, so were guys putting grease in their hair and women wearing poodle skirts. While we don't need to bring back everything from the '50s, some of it is still fun.

They are few and far between, but if you look around, you might find a drive-in nearby. And if that's the case, you can put your friends in the car -- don't forget to sneak in a couple your smallest passengers in the trunk just for old time's sake -- load up a cooler and make tracks to the drive-in.

Need a break between any of the three movies? A lot of them have playgrounds for the kids (assuming they are still awake past the first movie) and their snack bars are nothing short of awesome.

No. 1: Create your own drive-in

Regrettably, not every park department is going to offer movies in the park, and drive-ins may not be an option. In that case, why not combine all these ideas -- drive-in, movie in the park and theme party -- into one and make your own?

If you own a video projector (or know someone who owns one), you can have your own hybrid party right on the side of your house. There are even companies that will rent you a projector.

Set up the projector, throw out blankets, fire up the grill, and have some sweet summer fun.

For instance, one film enthusiast with a freeway noise barrier wall behind his house broke out his video projector and showed Pink Floyd's "The Wall" on said wall.

You may have noise laws that you have to work within, but it can be a great way to get in some summer movie fun in a creative way.

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