Flicks for Free: Summer Film Series

Summer is cinema’s golden time; new blockbusters abound and families in droves look to escape the overbearing sunshine and slip into the air conditioning and plush stadium seats and be transported. But hovering around $9 a pop nationwide, a night at the movies for the family can get pretty pricey, especially after snacks are factored in. Sure, you could Netflix it two months later, but that lacks a certain ceremony and is far better suited to snowy nights safely ensconced on your sofa.

A way more atmospheric (and entirely free) fix for movie junkies is the ubiquitous film series that takes advantage of green spaces and sultry evening breezes across the nation. A retractable big screen goes up at sundown, and multitudes copping a lazy squat in the parkland’s grass get to see big-screen classics, or often simply well-loved recent releases, in a whole new way, with a backdrop of stars and city skylines.

NYC’s Bryant Park beckons concrete jungle types each Monday to grab a blanket with fare including "Arsenic and Old Lace" and the original "Superman"; Washington, DC’s, Screen on the Green invites attendees to contemplate "The Candidate" just in front of the Capitol building; Portland, Oregon’s, filmgoers are encouraged to traverse all the town’s parks, enticed by multiple weekly offerings including everything from "Shrek the Third" to "Jerry McGuire" to "Juno." And it’s not just big cities that are in on the act: In Longmont, Colorado, you can catch "E.T." on a Saturday night in Thompson Park. And Detroit’s Campus Martius Park will screen "The Bee Movie" as part of its Comcast Summer Film Series.

Some festivals are more focused: Arlington, Virginia, boasts the entirety of James Bond’s oevre as a part of a series adorably titled "Once is Never Enough" shown on Mondays through August. And for harried families, bonding over Bond each week may just be the golden ticket: "At a time where sometimes parents lose connection with teens, it might be a way to bring them together," says Arlingtonian Monique O'Grady.

To locate a free summer film series near you, try searching online by visiting your town or county’s Web site or those of your parks service. Nothing? Try contacting your local visitor’s bureau or economic development group.

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