"When I was a kid, a ticket to the movies only cost..." so begins the familiar tale. The reason movie prices are used to benchmark how much times have changed is because a trip to the movies continues to be a treat, a rare constant in the fast-changing world of entertainment.
Despite the rise of video games and YouTube, sitting in the dark, air-conditioned cave of a movie theater has never gone out of style. This summer, with a little bit of planning, your family can take part in the big-screen tradition — at some very retro prices.
We recommend checking each theater's website carefully to confirm the time and ticket price for the movie you want to see.
Regal Summer Movie Express, various locations: $1 morning matinees
Regal Entertainment Group runs a weekday family matinee series all summer long. Each tickets costs $1 for movies beginning at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The same movies will play at all participating locations in the Puget Sound area, including Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Renton, Tukwila, Lynnwood, Everett, Mountlake Terrace, Bonney Lake, Lacey and more. Note: Check the Regal website for exact dates and locations; some Regal theaters in the region do not participate in Summer Movie Express.
Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse, Bellevue: $1 morning matinees
The Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse consists of a different G- or PG-rated movie each week for 10 weeks. Tickets cost $1 each at the door, or you can buy the whole bundle in advance for $5. The local participating theater is Cinemark Lincoln Square and showings are Wednesdays at 10 a.m.Details: 700 Bellevue Way N.E., Suite 310, Bellevue. 425-450-9100
Blue Mouse Theatre, Tacoma: $4–$6 tickets
A hundred-year-old independent movie theater, the Blue Mouse has relatively low prices every day of the week, with adult tickets regularly priced at $6. But the deal gets even sweeter on Monday and Tuesday evenings, when all tickets are only $4; and Saturday and Sunday matinee tickets are also $4. Blue Mouse plays a mix of family, art-house, independent and mainstream movies, so be sure to check out the listings online before you go.
Details: 2611 N. Proctor St., Tacoma. 253-752-9500
Crest Cinema Center, Shoreline: $4 tickets, all the time
A little down at heel (though in better shape than it used to be), Shoreline's beloved second-run theater is a last chance to catch the movies you meant to see before they leave the big screen. Matinees are now showing weekdays, a new addition to the matinee schedule (they used to show only on weekends), but whenever you go, all tickets are $4 (3D movie tickets will run you $5.50). Check the schedule online. (Bonus for adults: The Crest now serves beer and wine.)
Details: 16505 5th Ave. N.E. at 165th, Shoreline. 206-363-6339
The Edmonds Theater, Edmonds: $7 matinees and children's tickets
It's pricier than others on this list, but the independent Edmonds Theater in a restored vintage building plays first-run movies on its single screen for less than you'll pay at the cineplex. Matinees are $7. For evening showings, general admission is $9; children ages 12 and under pay $7. Check showtimes and buy tickets on Fandango.
Details: 415 Main St., Edmonds. 425-778-4554 (showtimes); 425-672-9366 (office)
Ark Lodge Cinema, Seattle: $9 seats for weekday matinees; $6 Wednesdays
Located in one of the most vibrant communities in Seattle, Columbia City's vintage, independent theater runs weekday films where seats are $9 for the first matinee of the day. The theater also offers $6 tickets all day every Wednesday (excluding holidays).
Details: 4816 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle. 206-721-3156
Central Cinema, Seattle: $1.99 tickets
Central Cinema plays an eccentric assortment of movies, including its monthly $1.99 feature. Do note these films aren't necessarily family-friendly, and they tend to run late in the evening (show times around 9:30 p.m.). But keep an eye on the theater's calendar for $1.99 shows when you can easily afford dinner and a movie for your little night owl — or have enough to spring for a babysitter and enjoy a date night. Check the website for titles and schedule.
Details: 1411 21st Ave., Seattle. 206-328-3230
Libraries, outdoor films and more cheap movie thrills
You can always check out videos from the library, but sometimes you can also watch them there.
- Several branches of the Seattle Public Library run movie series. Check the events calendar for a movie or other program at a branch near you.
- King County Library branches occasionally show movies and offer other family-friendly programs.
- Many local communities host a great array of free or nearly-free summer movies and performances. Check our guide to Seattle and Eastside-area movies and performances and South Sound-area free outdoor movies and performances.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2016 and updated for 2019.