Pass the Popcorn: 9 Ways to Watch Movies For Free This Summer

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Summertime is movie time, right? The air-conditioned theaters, the summer blockbusters, the delicious popcorn smell — it’s the perfect way to spend a hot and sticky summer afternoon.

But movie costs add up; at $12 or $15 per person, a movie can set a family of four back $60 before they even buy the popcorn. Yes, you can save on movie costs by buying matinee tickets or looking for coupons, but what if we told you there were a lot of ways to see movies — even new releases — for free?

Take a look at our list of free movie options, then start planning to save money on your movie costs this summer.

1. Your Local Theater’s Mailing List

It’s worth signing up for your local theater’s mailing list, because sometimes they give out free screening information. I’m on the Cinemark mailing list, and they regularly offer double features where you pay to see the newest movie in a series (like Avengers: Age of Ultron) and get to see the first movie in the series for free.

Your local theater may have different promotions or coupons, but it’s worth signing up for the mailing list to make sure you aren’t missing any great offers.

2. Online Promotions

If you do some Internet sleuthing, you’ll find companies ready to offer free movie tickets in exchange for participating in various purchase or promotion plans. For example, Minute Maid recently announced a promotion where you can get a free movie ticket for every six bottles of Minute Maid you purchase. This promotion is only good through the end of June, so start enjoying that Minute Maid right now!

3. Fandango

Movie ticket site Fandango has a whole section of its website devoted to free movie tickets and special offers. Check it out and see if you can score a few free tickets this summer. They’re also offering a sweepstakes where you can win free movie tickets for an entire year, so make sure to enter.

4. Klout

I’ve written before about using Klout to get free stuff; it’s a service that offers you free products based on your social media use. Some of these Klout freebies have included movie tickets, so sign up for Klout and see if any movie opportunities come your way.

5. Mystery Shopping

Mystery shoppers get to test out all kinds of products and services — including movie theaters. As a mystery shopper, you get to observe and rate your experience in the movie theater (whether the concessions workers provided good service, whether the bathrooms were clean, etc.). Then, you get to watch a movie for free!

Want to learn more? Check out our guide to becoming an entertainment mystery shopper. You’ll learn how to sign up with mystery shopping companies that send people out to watch movies, go bowling and even visit amusement parks.

6. Working at a Movie Theater

When you work at a movie theater, you often get to see all the new releases for free. It’s one of the perks of a job where you know you’ll come home every day smelling like buttery popcorn. Working at a movie theater is also a great job for teens, so if you’ve got a high-school-aged film buff in your house, send your teen over to the local theater to fill out a job application.

7. Movies in the Park

If your hometown has a park, chances are it will screen at least one outdoor movie this summer. If you live in a bigger city, you probably have multiple summer “movie in the park” festivals to choose from.

These are nearly always free, family-friendly events, so bring your picnic blanket and some snacks, show up early to get a good spot, and enjoy watching a movie under the stars.

8. Online Streaming Services

The big three online streaming services — Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Instant Video — all offer plenty of movie options. Although each of these streaming services uses a paid subscription model, there are ways to watch movies from each service for free:

  • Hulu offers a limited selection of free movies that anyone can watch, as well as a more thorough selection in its subscription-only Hulu Plus. However, you can get a free seven-day Hulu Plus trial and spend those days watching all the free movies you can fit into your schedule.
  • Netflix offers a free month, so continue your summer of free movie streaming by starting your free Netflix trial as soon as your Hulu Plus trial ends.
  • By the time you’ve sampled both Hulu Plus and Netflix, you should only have a few weeks of summer left, which is just enough time to sign up for Amazon Prime’s free 30-day trial. Might as well use your trial to get some free two-day shipping while you’re at it! Perfect for back-to-school season.

9. Movie Swap With Friends

Sometimes the easiest way to see a free movie starts by asking a friend if they want to come over and have a movie night. Chances are they’ve got something they’ve been dying to see, and they’ll bring the movie if you make the pizza!

You can also arrange a movie swap, where everyone brings their old DVDs and swaps them out for something new. There’s bound to be someone in your group who has never seen Casablanca or Jurassic Park, and someone else who has always wanted to see Pitch Perfect. This also works great for kids’ films; swap out the ones your kids are tired of watching for something new!

Your Turn: What are your favorite ways to save on movie costs?

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

Nicole Dieker is a freelance writer focusing on personal finance and personal stories. Her work has appeared in The Billfold, The Toast, Yearbook Office, The Write Life, and Boing Boing.