How to Host an Awesome Frugal Movie Night


Take a trip to the cinema to see a new release these days, and you might have to pawn off a family heirloom to afford it.

With ticket prices currently at $13.50 a pop for a non-3D, non-matinee film and a whopping $20 for a non-matinee IMAX 3D ticket in my neck of the woods (NYC), it’s no surprise that ticket sales are on the decline; many of us simply can’t justify the skyrocketing cost of a trip to the movies. After you factor in soda, candy, and popcorn (for those who like to do it up big when they catch the latest blockbuster), well, you may have to ask your boss for a raise.

But it’s times like these, when prices for life’s simple pleasures spin out of control, that we have to take a stand and hit those greedy bigwigs where it hurts — the pocket. To help you convey the message that we’re not gonna take it anymore, here are four easy tips on how to host a frugal movie night in the comfort of your own home. (See also: How to Throw a Fabulous (and Frugal!) Dinner Party)

1. Choose the Movie

Remember back in the day when the only option you had for a movie rental was Blockbuster? I do, and I remember being quite excited to stop by on a Friday afternoon to pick up a flick I was anticipating. Nevermind that the price was $4 for a two-day rental, either; Blockbuster had a lock on the market, and we didn’t know any better. Until Redbox came along, that is, and completely changed the home-movie rental game. Blockbuster was already suffering at the beginning of the new millennium, and the now-ubiquitous DVD kiosks put the final nail in Blockbuster’s coffin — and to that I say good riddance.

When I started using Redbox back in 2005 (time sure flies, doesn’t it?), I thought it was too good to be true. A DVD rental for $1 per night? Get out of town! I was in heaven. If that made me ecstatic, imagine my elation when I discovered Redbox codes that scored me free rentals. Best. Deal. Ever. You, too, can score a free rental (if you haven’t exhausted all the codes by now) by checking Redbox Codes for the latest updates. It’s worth noting, however, that the price of a Redbox rental has increased over the years to $1.20 per night — but that’s still a steal as far as I’m concerned. I mean, really, how long do you need to keep a movie?

If you don’t have a Redbox near you, there are other ways you can choose a movie to watch on the cheap: 

  • Browse your channel guide a few days to a week or two in advance of movie night and set your DVR to record a film you want to watch. I do this fairly often with my premium channels like HBO since they show a new cable release every Saturday night.
  • Get your money’s worth from your Netflix subscription and add a few new movies to your queue.
  • Check your On Demand channel for a movie. New releases can be pricey, but if you split the cost with the rest of the viewers (i.e. your friends) it will be more affordable. Also, many times there’s a free section on On Demand, which is worth a quick look.
  • Ask a friend if they have any new DVDs that you can borrow for a screening.
  • Use an iTunes or Amazon credit that you may have to download a movie.
  • If you want to host an experience outside, search for a free outdoor movie series in your area. These have become very popular over the past few years. If you live in a decent-size city, you’ll probably find one. Then all you have to do is invite a few friends and pack a picnic.
  • Rewatch one of your favorites in your collection. What’s the point of having all those movies if all they do is collect dust?

2. Make Great Snacks

I’m totally into Pinterest right now, mainly because I’m on a diet and I like to torture myself by looking at all the delicious junk-food photos that Midwestern women pin all day long. As it turns out, many of those pins are perfect recipes for a frugal movie night because they’re made from food that you probably already have on hand. Here are some of my favorites.

Baked Mozzarella Sticks

All you need for these baked mozzarella sticks is string cheese, egg, flour, breadcrumbs, and Parmesan cheese. You won’t feel as much guilt either since they’re baked, not fried.

Homemade Calzone

For these calzones, fill prepared pizza dough with your favorite pizza ingredients like cheese, pepperoni, and sauce, then “braid” it before popping in the oven.

Parmesan Baked Potato Halves

Potatoes, butter, cheese, and garlic are the main ingredients in this homemade appetizer that will comfort the whole crowd.

Cookies and Cream Popcorn

Instead of drenching it in butter and salt, drizzle the popcorn with melted white chocolate and mix in crushed Oreo cookies. Yeah, I know. I had a foodgasm, too.

Hot Chocolate Krispies

Same as regular Rice Krispies treats — but hot chocolate krispies are made richer with the addition of hot chocolate mix and lots more marshmallows.

Chocolate-Filled Strawberries 

Since the fruit is in season, this is the perfect time to try a take on classic chocolate-covered strawberries by filling the strawberries instead of dipping them.


Make a frosty mug of refreshing root beer decidedly adult with this recipe for a grown-up root beer float.

For even more sinful movie-night recipes from my board, find me on Pinterest.

3. Invite the Ideal Guests

Ideal guests for frugal movie night, in my opinion, are those who are equally excited to see the movie you’ve chosen, arrive with a bottle of something red or white, and hush their mouths while the movie is screening. You know which of your friends that is, so give them a call or text and extend an invitation. 

4. Make It Comfy

The final step to hosting an awesome frugal movie night is to make the experience comfortable. Have lots of blankets and pillows available so everyone can curl up in their favorite movie-watching position. If some guests are relegated to the floor, make sure they have what they need to enjoy the night as much as everyone else.

Have you hosted an awesome frugal movie night? Let me know some of your tips and tricks in the comments below.

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Guest's picture

Slightly offensive to Midwestern women (who don't sit around all day eating and pinning bon bons because they have jobs too). "I’m totally into Pinterest right now, mainly because I’m on a diet and I like to torture myself by looking at all the delicious junk-food photos that Midwestern women pin all day long".

Stereotypes for race and sexual preference are bad, but not for geographical locations?

Mikey Rox's picture

Sorry you're offended, Val. It was meant as an innocent joke. So innocent in fact that I didn't say anything about sitting around eating bon bons all day. It was just a quick quip about Middle American women's love of Pinterest, which is also a fact, by the way:

My apologies once again. Thanks for the comment. Have a great day!

Guest's picture

Thanks for the response - I personally wasn't offended because I don't actually fit that demographic. I realize you didn't say anything about bon bon's (which is why I put it in parenthesis) I just thought it sounded like a dig to put midwestern women and pinning junk food all day in the same sentence. I appreciate you posting link - it's interesting - I'd love to see what the demos are like including the past six months.

We started having regular movie nights with another couple. Every other week we host and prepare dinner and pick the movie (we choose random movies that the others may not have seen or remember and rate them).

Guest's picture

I've never hosted a movie night, but just like you said, the expensive ticket prices limited movie-going for me and my wife. Back then, we'd go watch a movie every other week. But now, we only go to the movies once or twice a year.

Meg Favreau's picture

Cookies and cream popcorn: I need it. OMG.

Guest's picture

Also maybe check your local library--mine has tons of dvd's you can rent for a week at a time for free.

Guest's picture

Thanks for including a link to the Vootbeer; I do a cocktail every Friday but that little buggar has been hugely popular. Simple and just would absolutely be great for a movie in!

Guest's picture

Excellent recipe, Barbara! Can't wait to try it - maybe tonight if we get rained in. :)

Andrea Karim's picture

Of course, you can also have a movie mockery night where you purposely watch a terrible movie and enjoy a sort of MST 3000 with your snarkiest friends. The other rules still apply (food, beverage, comfort), but you can talk loudly through the film or live-blog it. :)

I recommend the movie Alexander, which is The Worst Movie Ever Made(TM).

Guest's picture

LOL. That's a great idea, Andrea!

Guest's picture

You can rent DVD's for free at the public library

Guest's picture

I'm obsessed with pinterest these days too, and all of my friends are benefitting from it. So far in the past couple of weeks I have made homemade snickers, some sort of chef breakfast and bacon bars, and I actually did try the baked mozzarella sticks! They were awesome. You can definitely find some awesome snack ideas (and plenty of ones including popcorn) on Pinterest. And red box is the best invention since sliced bread IMO!

Guest's picture

We have a family movie night every other Sunday and the kids love it we take turns picking the movie out of the redbox and we make different snacks each time, the latest was homemade poppycock. It is so much cheaper then going to out and you can pause the movie if one of the kids needs to run to the bathroom. :)