Where to See Free and Cheap Movies in New York City With Kids
A trip to the movies is always a good bet for family-friendly fun, but before you go into hock taking the kids to the local theater for a first-run blockbuster, consider this: There are FREE and cheap movies playing in New York City all year long. You just need to know where to find them—and we do.
We've found a handful of local spots where you can find FREE or low-cost movies in New York City, which should provide enough big-screen entertainment to tide you over until the return of the Parks Department's FREE summer movie series.
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Where to Find Free Movies in NYC for Kids and Families
NY Public Libraries – Multiple Locations
A great place to find free movies is your local library. Lots of branches show a variety of films for children and toddlers. Check the online calendars of the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library, and the Queens Library to see what's being shown.
David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center – Upper West Side
We're thrilled to report that the David Rubenstein Atrium has finally reopened to the public, and this Upper West Side gem is a true haven for FREE, culturally-rich programs and events. While most of the upcoming events for kids are live performances (also great for indoor enrichment opportunities), be on the lookout for movie showings and screenings at the venue.
United Palace Theater – Washington Heights
Head uptown to this historical gem in the Heights. Thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Miranda Family Fund, this beautiful old theater hosts occasional FREE indoor movies. First opened in 1930, the theater is spectacular in its own right, with red velvet seats and golden hues abounding. There's both pre-show live entertainment and the film itself to enjoy, so you can really have two experiences in one. At a recent showing of The Greatest Showman, Miranda was joined on stage by Hugh Jackman for a pre-show conversation and Broadway star Mandy Gonzalez delivered a soaring rendition of Never Enough.
The Museum of the Moving Image houses a state-of-the-art, 267-seat theater, and most screenings are included with admission. Photo by Thanassi Karageorgiou
Inexpensive Movies for NYC Kids and Families
Museum of the Moving Image – Astoria
Most screenings at MoMI are included with admission: adults, $15; children ages 3-17, $9; ages 2 and younger, FREE
This Queens institution underwent a massive renovation in 2011, and one of the additions was a state-of-the-art, 267-seat theater. Although not all of the screenings are for families, many are kid-friendly—particularly during school breaks, including daily showings of Encanto during spring break. Visit the website for the schedule.
AMC Theatres – Citywide
Did you know you can pay around 10 bucks (price varies by neighborhood) for screenings that start before 4pm at all NYC AMC Theatres year-round? Well, it's true. You can get 30 percent off of evening ticket prices when you go see a matinee before 4pm at these locations.
BAMkids hosts its own film festival annually, plus reasonably priced weekend matinees. Photo courtesy of BAM
BAMkids Weekend Matinees – Fort Greene, Brooklyn
$10 for adults, $7 for children under 13
The annual BAMkids Film Festival thrills audiences each February, so save the date for next year's run. While you're waiting, take note: BAMkids hosts tons of other FREE and low-cost programming, including select weekend matinees with fun movies for the whole family.
Nighthawk Cinema – Prospect Park & Williamsburg
Search for "all-ages" showings on the Nighthawk Cinema website to find tickets to family-friendly flicks, and pair your movie with a selection from its menu, which includes kids-only items like cheese quesadillas, kids tots, or a snack tray if you just can't see a movie without popcorn.
Film Forum Jr.: Classics for Kids and Their Families – Greenwich Village
In the mood for a classic? The Film Forum on West Houston Street is a popular and affordable place to introduce the youngest members of the family to some more seasoned films. Grab a somewhat-early Sunday morning breakfast and head down to the theater for treasures such as Disney's Fantasia, To Kill a Mockingbird, Singin' in the Rain, and The Music Man—to name just a few.
The Skyline Drive-In offers a unique movie-going experience and arguably the best view! Photo courtesy of Skyline
Skyline Drive-In – Greenpoint, Brooklyn
$55 for a carload (up to 7 people)
While not technically "indoors," you can enjoy a movie with family and friends from the comfort of your own automobile at this innovative drive-in theater, where you'll enjoy spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline. The Skyline Drive-In gives New Yorkers a real drive-in experience in the heart of the city. The best way to make this experience budget-friendly is to get a full car of people, which lowers the price per person to less than $8. Pack your own snacks, and enjoy the big screen on the riverfront.
This post was originally published in January 2010.