May 20, 2009

The Really Cheap Theater

We love to be outdoors. We are outside from the first hint of Spring until the cold of winter sets in for good. We play outdoors, eat outdoors, work outdoors, read, swim and even nap under the shade of one of our enormous trees.

Once the cold days and long nights of winter replace the carefree days of summer, there is very little family entertainment to be found in our town. And so many a dreary winter's weekend has found us going to the movies, for lack of anything else to do.

Our steadily growing clan added to the steadily growing cost of seeing a movie has made this a costly endeavor. Last week, when Allen and I went to the movies with my folks it cost $10.50 a person! Let's do the math on this. That is $95 for our gang to see a movie. And it might not even be a good one.

I will spare you the details on the outrageous cost of popcorn and drinks. (Which, by the way, my friend who used to manage a theater assured me cost a mere ten cents for the theater which in turns charges you $10 for a large popcorn and large coke combo!)

However, we do have this very nifty theater in our area. They show movies that are getting ready to or have already left the big theaters. When the Holiday Cinemas opened their doors we called it the 99 cent theater, because that's what a ticket cost.

Over the years, their prices have gone up, just like the big theaters. The last time we went it was $3.29 a ticket. We now call it the cheap theater because the $3.29 theater just doesn't roll off your tongue the same.

Still the cost is more doable than the RC Cinema on the other side of town. Their concessions are cheaper, too. If you can get the kids up and moving on Saturday morning they even have a family show that still costs 99 cents a ticket.

Doing the math, though, I can still quickly calculate for our family to to see one movie at the cheap theater still costs well over $27 . My ever thoughtful mom came up with an idea that really works for us. She suggested we install a drop down screen and projector in our family room.

Now, I know initially spending a thousand dollars on a projector sounds like an odd way to save money but stick with me a minute.

Assuming, as a family, we saw just ten movies a year, and that is a very low number, we broke even the first year. And that is before figuring the savings on popcorn and drinks.

Now consider this, my husband and I now often opt to have a "date at home". Instead of going out to dinner and a movie, we put on PJ's, get some carryout and go to the theater in the basement. Not only is it far more relaxing, cuddled up together on the couch, but we save all over the place. The cost of our dinner is less and we obviously save the ridiculous cost of theater. Adding even more value to our investment. (Side note: our family room is still a work in progress, thus the primer on the walls.)

Our regular Friday night with the family at the theater and pizza restaurant across town has been replaced with home made pizza and a video at home. Often friends often will join us as well. Friday nights have become a regular party for us, friends and extended family. It is not uncommon for me to get a text message mid week asking what will be showing at "THE REALLY CHEAP THEATER" on Friday night.

My sister and her husband made it more authentic when they gave us an old fashioned movie time popcorn popper for Christmas the year before last. It does indeed make great popcorn and adds to the theater feel. The gift came with some nice ceramic popcorn bowls. We added some plastic old fashioned looking popcorn buckets from the dollar section at target so the nice ones don't get broken on the hard wood and ceramic tile in the basement.

We stock up on movie candy at CVS or Walmart for a dollar a box periodically. We have covered cups, in order to protect the leather furniture, that we serve root beer in for an extra treat once in a while.

A few months ago my husband asked the kids to come up with a name for our Friday night's. Many times we make decisions rather democratically in our family. Everyone gets a vote, but Pa's vote is the only one that counts. (More on this in a future post.)

This was a perfect example. A basket was placed on the dining table. For one week people added secret ballots with their ideas for names. At the end of the week all the names were written on the big white board (more on this in a future post) at the head of the dining room table. Then we voted. After an hour or so there were still so many names on the board. Allen picked his favorite of the bunch.

And so "Dish Night at the Wachter's" was born. Unless you lived through the great depression, I am sure you are wondering "What is that supposed to mean?" This takes me back to the initial idea behind this post. Over at Works For Me Wednesday a few weeks ago our host asked for posts about ways to maintain our quality of living during these difficult financial times.

This was the other idea I was too tired to write about after finishing my post on Groceries and Gas. During the Great Depression, theaters would sponsor Dish Night in order to bring in customers. If you came to the theater on those nights you would be given a plate or a glass with little flowers painted on them. It became known as Dish Night at the Movies.

Since, our Friday Night's were born of the desire to save money but still enjoy one of our favorite activities, Dish Night became the ideal name.

Sometimes, we re watch old favorites. We love the classic black and whites of the old days. Laurel and Hardy and Carey Grant to name a few. We don't watch television so we have invested in different television series on DVD. Little House on the Prairie, Scooby Doo and Dick Van Dyke for example. But quite often we buy a new video we've not seen before.

Our most recent investments have been the Back to the Future , Sherwood Church films (Fireproof, Flywheel, Facing the Giants) and the Tale of Despereaux. I know, again, this seems like an odd way to save money but think about it.

I can often get a movie at Walmart or Target for $5 or $6. Our Giant Eagle always has a rack of cheap movies, too. Even if I pay the full price of $20 or $25 for a new release, it still costs less than taking our family to see a movie at the Cheap Theater. And I almost never pay full price. If there is something specific we are looking for, I ask around. Lots of movies are just sitting on the shelves of family and friends. In turn everyone we know has an open invitation to borrow any of our videos. Of which, we have quite an extensive collection.

If no one has the video we are looking for, I search my favorite places like where you can often get a brand new video for less than $10 even with shipping. I have no problem with getting a used video from sellers with good feedback ratings, either. Who cares if it has been watched before as long as it isn't scratched? is one of my favorite places to go for videos, too. It is sometimes cheaper than for a new movie and we are members of Amazon prime so we get it in 2 days with free shipping.

Last week, I stopped in CVS and while I was waiting for my pictures to print I noticed a rack of discount movies. I found quite a few in there that we had been wanting to see or that the story seems like something the family would like. I walked out with 4 movies for less than $25. Earlier in the week we paid more than $30 for 3 of us to see Star Trek. You do the accounting there.

Dish Night at the Wachter's has become such a fun time that the kids ask me a few times each week if today is Dish Night. The morning I say it is, I am greeted with whoops and hollers equal to that on birthdays. Brianna has taken charge of it, and does most of the planning. She chooses movies, after consulting me, and hunts them down or orders them.

Then she makes posters, using Publisher software, to advertise the movie of the week. There are usually posters hanging in the bathrooms, kitchen and at the bottom of the stairs. Even my guys who can't read, get excited about these and can be overheard asking, "What does it say?"

Sometimes, she puts the basket on the table and a movie for the week is chosen by the democratic method I explained earlier. Sometimes, she chooses a movie to go with the season or holiday. The Friday before your birthday the honoree gets to pick the movie and pizza toppings.

Sometimes, she tries to come up with contests or games to go along with the movie. Once, the kids dressed up like Israelites, for example. Another time, we had a contest to see who could work the most quotes from the movie of the night into the conversation during dinner.

We have done double feature nights with, "The Love Bug" and "Herbie Rides Again." We have done themed nights with the animated stories of Joseph and Moses. When we were studying the Exodus in our family Bible time we watched the classic, "Ten Commandments." We've done movie marathons, too. One of the kids favorites is the old "Muppet Shows" from the 70's and 80's.

Another, big plus, even though it is not a money saver, is that Brianna previews movies we've not seen before if there is any question as to whether it is appropriate for everyone or if the little guys will like it. For example, we saw a preview for two movies that we thought might be nice family Christian viewing. We ordered them for a few dollars each. Brianna previewed them and while they were both good movies, they were not something the little guys would enjoy.

KK is my pizza girl. She makes the home made dough on Friday mornings. Sometimes we theme the pizza to the movie. Sometimes, we go on the Internet and look for new ideas. The birthday person gets to pick the week of their big day. Sometimes we just do the standard pepperoni and veggie.

No matter what we watch or which pizza we choose. Dish Night at the Wachter's Really Cheap Theater, is not just a great money saving way to have great entertainment. It has become a family event that is tying strings and building memories. That really works for me.

For more Works-For-Me-Wednesday ideas pop on over to We are That Family.


  1. What an awesome family room! Even if it is still a work in progress! My hubs and I bought an internet box that you can download movies to your TV thus saving a trip to the movie theatre or video store!!! That is how we save a little $$$

    Thanks for stopping by the new mom blog. I am having soo much fun meeting new bloggers and YES...I am dimented...for sure but somehow it makes word verification lovable again!!!!

  2. Neat. We don't have anyplace to put a projector but we do have a big screen LCD tv. And we too buy lots of dvds.


  3. How fun is all that!!! What a great thing. I've been wanting to redo our upstairs guest room/family room into a movie themed room.

    Oh, by the way. The hotel is in Orlando but I think it's a Hilton. I just don't like be really specific on my blog about stuff :-)

    Thanks also for the great comment about the skirts. I'm having fun wearing them over the past couple days.

  4. So neat! We do Netflix now and very rarely go to the theater. I just can't see paying a babysitter for my husband and I to go to a movie when we can watch one in our living room after the kids go to bed!

  5. Sounds like so much fun! We do Friday night homemade pizza and movies, also. We have been using Netflix and watching all the old Disney movies I grew up with. The kids love them! We don't go to the movies very much either. Too expensive! Before we moved we had a $3.00 movie theater that had free popcorn on Thurs. nights! That is so creative of your girls to make posters and theme the night to the movies. Maybe when my oldest girl is older she will do things like that. She is very creative, but the boys... not so much!

  6. Oh, that is awesome!!!! I love, love, love the popcorn machine AND the popcorn holders! I saw those at our dollar store the last time I was in there and noticed how CUTE they were!

    Happy Friday, Kat!!!