The U.S. economy is recovering, but stagnant incomes mean family budgets are tighter, with less money left for entertainment. And if you're a parent of teenagers, you may not have as much discretionary cash as you once did to spot them $30 or $40 every week for a night out at the movies with a date or friends.
But that creates a dilemma: How does a family stay within its budget without having the young adults conclude that their lifestyle is more austere than the that of the Puritans?
Here's one option: Consider bringing the movie home to the teens via a home theater system. If you have a big-screen TV with a decent pair of speakers, you're halfway there.
If your teens balk at the option, ask them to try it for just one night. Odds are, after a test drive, they'll make it a regular event.
But for it to work, you'll need the second half of the equation: A great movie that young adults will like. Unfortunately, this takes a little research, because Hollywood hasn't produced too many gems lately. Don't fret: The research has already been done here. Listed below are three classic movies -- all available on DVD for less than $15 -- that should please the younger crowd.
Three Screen Gems for Teens
American Graffiti (1973). Genre: Romantic/Comedy. Stars: Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss. Most teens probably will balk at the thought of watching this film, but recommend it to them, anyway. More than likely, after a few minutes, they'll be 100% engrossed in the movie. Director George Lucas' tribute to his youth in the early 1960s in California's car culture is a masterpiece, combining a brilliant script, issues that teens can identify with (dating, impressing friends, social pressures, growing up), humor, and a classic rock 'n' roll soundtrack. Produced by Francis Ford Coppola, this box office blockbuster redefined how soundtracks are applied to films. Teens who have heard of it but never seen it may dismiss it as "a really old film," but after viewing it, most will probably change their verdict to "I didn't know it was a really good film."
Jaws (1975). Genre: Thriller. Stars: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw. Director Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Peter Benchley's novel is almost certain to keep the teens riveted to the screen. True, the special effects are basic compared to today's technology, but very little else is mediocre in this blockbuster ocean-faring thriller that literally left many Americans scared to swim in the ocean that summer. Jaws has many themes young adults will find appealing: the beach, generational conflict, and the price one pays to do the right thing in the face of social or political pressure. More than likely, your teens will be engrossed from the first few notes of the film's legendary score.
Titanic (1997). Genre: Epic/Romance/Disaster. Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet. Director James Cameron combines a love story with social commentary in a fictionalized account of the tragic 1912 ocean liner disaster. The development of the relationship between the supercool DiCaprio and the striking Winslet offers more than enough to interest teens, and the pageantry of the age combined with the film's spectacular visuals should also impress. Note: Given its length (three hours), it's best to schedule an intermission.
OK -- the hard work is done. Now ask your teen to invite their crew over on a Friday or Saturday night, tell them to turn off the smart phones and computers for a couple hours, and enjoy.
Just remember to make a lot of popcorn.
The Frugal Consumer: Three Classic Home Theater Films for Teens