If you’re like many people, finding cheap or free family activities in your community is a constant challenge. Fortunately, if your brood loves films, checking out events like free campus movie nights offers you an excellent alternative to going to the theater.

While many people these days watch movies online for free, it’s not very conducive to building family bonds. Enter the community movie night! Many community hubs such as college campuses offer free or cheap family activities year-round. For example, at Boise State University in Boise, Idaho, the Student Programs Board offers a campus movie night for students and the community every couple of weeks. Recent movies on campus included The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Identity Thief. Often the films they show are the same movies that are in the second-run theaters.

Typically, the way these free family activities work is that students get into the event for free with their student IDs and members of the community will pay anywhere from a dollar to three dollars to get in. Refreshments are also inexpensive—a can of soda and a bag of popcorn costs just a buck at my local event!

Here’s the cost breakdown for a fun outing for a family of four:

  • Price of admission: $4 (Unless one of you is a student with an ID)
  • Price of popcorn and drink for each person: $4
  • Cost of gas and parking: $7
  • Total: $15 (Or in other words, totally-cheap, nearly-free family activity!)

Compare this to a night at the local movie theater:

  • Matinee for four people at $8 apiece: $32
  • Popcorn and drinks–2 large family packs with popcorn/soda to share : $24 ($12 each)
  • Parking: free (maybe the only thing that is…)
  • Total: $56

Additionally, prices in big cities are usually higher, even for the matinee, so the cost per movie could be as high as $10 apiece with more dollars tacked onto the popcorn and drinks. Also, some families will want more than just popcorn and soda for their family activity night. Either way, this is a great way to get out and have some family movie fun for barely more than the price of a single ticket at the theater!

This is a guest post by Buffy from Boise, ID