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Family movies for free (or almost free) fill Austin's summer

Dale Roe

I know you want your kids to spend time outside; I'm a parent, too.

For starters, we're only a few weeks into summer vacation and we're already fielding complaints of boredom (and hunger, but that's a story for the food section). And all that indoor time plays right into kids' "Twilight" obsession — pale, translucent skin seems neither healthy nor attractive. Finally, admit it — we're just not used to looking at them so much. So, yeah, you want them to spend some time in the sun. I get it.

But have you stepped outside lately? Go ahead; I'll wait. Take a fire extinguisher with you. It's hot out. Record-temperature hot. Are you back? Nice tan!

Here's an idea — kids love movies. Austin's got a lot of options for free and inexpensive screenings of family-friendly, summertime fare, and it's so blissfully cool and dark in those air-conditioned theaters. Consider it an educational pursuit: It's never too early to start teaching your kids how to be polite, quiet moviegoers (other parents will thank you in a few weeks when the final Harry Potter film opens).

And don't worry about concessions; one of these venues offers a break on treats, too. Or, you know -- you can just load up your kids' pockets with unpopped kernels and salt, and in the time it takes to walk from your front door to the car, they'll have handfuls of delicious popcorn.

Here are some of your movie options.

Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse

This program features a variety of animated and live-action films. There are some good titles here — "Over the Hedge," "Stuart Little," "Kung Fu Panda" — mixed in with some stinkers including "Bee Movie" and the "Cats and Dogs" sequel. A few classics such as "Wizard of Oz" and "Charlotte's Web" stand out. And the website has a coupon for a small break on concessions.

Cost: 10 shows for $5 if purchased in advance, or $1 per movie at the box office.

Locations: Tinseltown South, 5501 S. Interstate 35 (10 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays); Cinemark Discount Movies 8, 2132 N. Mays St. No. 800, Round Rock (10 a.m. Tuesdays).

Information: www.cinemark.com/summer-movie-club house

Regal Summer Movie Express

Each Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 a.m. through Aug. 3, Regal Cinemas theaters are screening a plethora of kids' movies. Show up early — while you're waiting, you can teach your kids the meaning of the word "plethora." Standout titles include "Despicable Me," "Ramona & Beezus" and "Megamind." There are definitely films to avoid here: "Furry Vengeance" and "Gulliver's Travels" would top my ditch list, but each location has two movies showing each day, so choosy mothers can be choosy.

Cost: $1

Locations: Arbor, 9828 Great Hills Trail; Westgate, 4477 S. Lamar Blvd.; Lakeline, 11200 Lakeline Mall Drive, Cedar Park.

Information: www.regmovies.com/summermovieexpress

Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas Summer Kids' Camp

As you might expect, Austin's homegrown movie chain has a more eclectic list of titles than its competitors. Can't-miss, newer flicks include "Corpse Bride" and "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," while Gen X'ers will want to introduce their children to 1986's live-action "Flight of the Navigator" and 1979's "The Muppet Movie" (just in time for the upcoming big-screen franchise reboot). Shows are at 11 a.m. and run Monday-Thursday, except at Alamo Lake Creek, where they screen daily (including weekends).

Cost: Free

Locations: Alamo Village, 2700 W. Anderson Lane; Alamo South, 1120 S. Lamar Blvd.; Alamo Lake Creek, 13729 Research Blvd.

Information: www.draft house.com/series/summer_kids_camp/austin

Austin Film Society/Austin Public Library Head Start Cinema

Monday and Wednesday nights, the society and the Austin Public Library team up to present titles from the British Film Institute's list of 50 films kids should see by age 14. What a great idea! Screenings of such films as "Back to the Future," "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," "Jason and the Argonauts" and "King Kong" will be followed (on Wednesdays at the Windsor Park Branch) by discussions about each film led by a member of Austin's film community.

Cost: Free

Locations: University Hills Branch, 4721 Loyola Lane (screenings 6:30 p.m. Mondays); Windsor Park Branch, 5833 Westminster Drive (screenings and talks 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays).

Information: www.ci.austin.tx.us/library/news/nr20110517.htm

More from the Austin Public Library

Various library branches have evening and matinee screenings of family movies, including the delightful "Gnomeo and Juliet," "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" and "Legend of the Guardians: Owls of Ga'hoole" all summer long. A separate program, Superhero Summer Cinema, screens such fare as "Iron Man" and "X-Men 2." Check the website for a list of titles, branches and show times.

Cost: Free

Information: www.ci.austin.tx.us/library/news.htm

Splashy movies

Not all of this summer's film series are indoors. The water, not AC, keeps film fans cool at Splash Party Movie Nights at Deep Eddy Pool. The first screening in the series is ‘Grease,' at dusk tonight. For more information, visit www.ci.austin.tx.us/parks/pools_special.htm.

droe@statesman.com; 912-5923