You may have thought the only way to see movies for free was to go to the nearest chain multiplex and pull the old "double feature" trick, in which you purchase a ticket for one movie, watch it, then sneak into a second feature (not that Gambit endorses such activities). Between high-priced tickets and concessions that are as expensive as they are fattening, petty theft is often tempting when confronted with a movie night that costs more than the bill at an upscale restaurant.
Thankfully, frugal cinema buffs have options other than streaming bootleg movies from Swedish websites. There are free or cheap movie opportunities all around New Orleans, especially during the summer.
With its inexpensive membership rates and enticing programming, the New Orleans Film Society (NOFS) (www.neworleansfilmsociety.org) is one of the best ways to score free and low-cost movie tickets. Yearly membership for people under 30 is only $25 a year. Regular membership rates begin at $60 per year, and that fee quickly pays for itself: every month the Prytania Theatre (5339 Prytania St., 891-2787; www.theprytania.com) screens a free movie for NOFS members, and Chalmette Movies (8700 W. Judge Perez Drive, Chalmette, 304-9992; www.chalmettemovies.com) does the same thing on Thursdays. Movies at those places usually include the blockbusters of the moment; Bridesmaids and X-Men: First Class are among recent offerings. Members also get discounts at regular NOFS screenings — held at venues including the Prytania, New Orleans Museum of Art, the Contemporary Arts Center and Coliseum Square Park — as well as the NOFS-sponsored film festivals Film-o-Rama, the French Film Festival (July 8-14) and the New Orleans Film Festival (Oct. 14-20). There also are discounts for senior citizens and people who work in the film industry.
NOFS is one of many organizations that partner with the Charitable Film Network (CFN) (896-7333; www.charitablefilmnetwork.org), which collaborates with local artists, nonprofits and community groups to screen free films. The CFN partners with The Green Project (2831 Marais St., 945-0240; www.thegreenproject.org) for the Green Screen series, which shows films about environmental issues at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month. The screenings are usually followed by a short discussion or reception. Later in the summer, the CFN will host SOS — or "sex on Saturdays" — at Antenna Gallery (3161 Burgundy St.; www.press-street.com/antenna); the film series will include movies covering a variety of sex and relationship issues. Throughout the year, the CFN will continue to host screenings at the New Orleans Loving Festival, which started June 10. The network frequently hosts screenings around town, so check the group's website and Facebook page for event information.
Broad Community Connections' NOLA Drive-In series debuted in April with a screening of Jim Jarmusch's Down By Law, followed by Bottle Rocket in May, on the rooftop of the old Schwegmann's grocery on North Broad Street. The group recently lost that location, but plans to host more drive-in (or bike-in or walk-in) screenings this summer at a different location that hasn't been finalized. Admission is free (with donations accepted), and food and beer are available for purchase. Follow the NOLA Drive-In Twitter account (@NolaDriveIn) for screening updates.
If you want dinner (and dessert) plus a movie on the cheap, the French Quarter location of La Divina Gelateria (621 St. Peter St., 302-2692; www.ladivinagelateria.com) hosts a monthly Monday Movie Madness series. There's a different theme for the free screenings each month, with past categories including Alfred Hitchcock, Christmas and Laurel & Hardy movies. During the screenings at 7:30 p.m. on Mondays, the cafe offers a special that includes a panino, a cup of soup or house salad, a hot double espresso and a 4-ounce espresso for $15. July will feature Peter Sellers movies, and August will feature films by Woody Allen.
The National World War II Museum (945 Magazine St., 528-1944; www.nationalww2museum.org) periodically hosts free screenings in its Solomon Victory Theater and in the Stage Door Canteen. A screening of Action in the North Atlantic, the 1943 Academy Award-nominated film starring Humphrey Bogart and Raymond Massey, will be shown at 6 p.m. on June 30 in the Stage Door Canteen.
On the Northshore, there's the outdoor Free Flicks Friday series at the Mandeville Trailhead Amphitheater (675 Lafitte St., 985-624-3147; www.mandevilletrailhead.org). Upcoming screenings are July 15 and July 29.
You sometimes can find free movie passes in the pages of Gambit, online at www.bestofneworleans.com and on our Twitter "schwag" feed @GambitGoods.