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Do you choose a comedy, a drama, an animated film or a musical number? Or go with something classic in black-and-white or foreign with subtitles? Whatever the genre preference, this is the day for it.

And don’t forget to go early and pick up a soft drink and a big bucket of popcorn to share. Because it’s time for National Cinema Day!

History of National Cinema Day

People have been enjoying watching films at cinemas for more than a century, since the first movie theaters began opening in the United States in the early 1900s. After the ability to capture moving pictures on film came about, the evolution of the cinema developed and it has been a beloved American institution for many years.

But now, with the advent of video players, DVDs and now online streaming, people simply don’t go out to the movies as often as they used to.

Founded with the intention of reminding the world how fun it is to go to the cinema, National Cinema Day has been established to bring the people back to the world of the movie theater. It is celebrated in the United States, the United Kingdom and may grow to other countries as well.

The Cinema Foundation, which is an arm of the non-profit organization The National Association of Theater Owners, has been an important part of raising awareness in honor of National Cinema Day.

National Cinema Day Timeline


First movie ever made 

Louis Le Prince in Leeds, England makes a short film called Roundhay Garden Scene.[1]


First film scores are released 

This consisted of musicians playing the sheet music live to accompany the film.[2]


First Nickelodeon movie theater opens 

The first opens in Pittsburgh, PA, and they are named in honor of the price of admission: a nickel to see a short film.[3]


Gone With the Wind is released 

MGM releases the film that will eventually become the all-time most viewed movie in a cinema – with its global gross at almost 3.5 billion (adjusted for inflation).[4]


First digital projectors are unveiled 

Making movies even easier to show and less likely to glitch, the digital projector makes its debut in cinemas.[5]

How to Celebrate National Cinema Day

Many fun and exciting ways can be found to enjoy celebrating National Cinema Day. Get started with some of these fun ideas:

Head Out to the Movies

Of course, going to the cinema is the most important plan for celebrating National Cinema Day! Check out what’s new on the silver screen and invite some friends along.

As a bonus, many cinema and movie theater chains are offering special discounts and deals in honor of National Cinema Day. As many as 30,000 cinemas across the United States have participated in this day in the past. Some for as low as $3 per ticket!

These are some of the companies that have offered special deals for tickets as well as concessions on National Cinema Day: AMC, Regal Cinemas and Marcus Theaters. Inquire at other local cinemas to find out if they are offering any deals.

Another option might be to purchase cinema tickets online through Fandango, either through their website or their mobile app. This is a popular and convenient way in the US to reserve movie tickets without having to wait in line, but it may also be possible to purchase tickets online ahead of time through each individual cinema.

However those tickets are secured, don’t wait to take advantage of all the fun. It might even be fun to schedule a movie marathon at the cinema, with back-to-back-to-back movies. After all, it is National Cinema Day!

Enjoy Some Favorite Cinema Snacks

It’s true that the snacks eaten in a movie theater just hit different! Something about that buttery cinema popcorn and those Junior Mints that just offer a unique and much more delicious vibe when they are eaten in the dark in theater seating in front of an enormous screen!

Check out some of these most traditional of the cinema snacks:

  • Popcorn. Pop some popcorn on the stove or in the microwave and then pile on the melted butter to get that movie theater popcorn vibe. Don’t forget the salt!
  • Gummy Bears or Gummy Worms. Squishy gummies are tons of fun when eaten at the movie theater. The sour ones are even more delightful for some people!
  • Nacho Chips with Melted Cheese. One fun treat that is reminiscent of the cinema is a cardboard bowl piled high with tortilla chips and covered in squeeze cheese.
  • Raisinets. It’s hard to know if anyone really even likes these very much, except that they seem to be a tradition for eating while at the movie theater. So grab a handful of those chocolate covered raisins and enjoy!

Throw a National Cinema Day Party

In celebration of National Cinema Day, invite friends to meet at the cinema and watch a movie together. But don’t stop there! Throw a themed afterparty as well. Ask guests to dress up as their favorite character from the silver screen and serve some movie-themed snacks and treats like popcorn balls, licorice twists, chocolate covered raisins and Good & Plenty candies.

Watch a Classic Movie

For those who need to stay at home, National Cinema Day is a great time to celebrate by watching a favorite movie. Choose from a number of classics. For instance, Gone with the Wind is the film that has grossed the most dollars over all time (adjusted for inflation).

Or perhaps choose to watch one of these other fan favorite films that have been high-grossing at the box office. Check them out on DVD or Blu-ray, or find them online:

  • Avatar. Revealing the potential of technology in its day, this 2009 James Cameron film has grossed $2.847 billion at the box office as it broke ground in the world of 3D films.
  • Avengers: Endgame. Making its appearance in 2019, this sequel sci-fi superhero movie came very close to beating out Avatar with $2.79 billion at the box office.
  • Titanic. An earlier James Cameron movie to make a splash, and holding the top spot for more than a decade (from 1997 to 2009), Titanic threw Leonardo DiCaprio into the spotlight and also grossed $2.2 billion.
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This franchise has been a favorite of science fiction buffs as well as those looking for some nostalgia following the sequel trilogy. This 2015 J.J. Abrams film brought in just over $2 billion.

National Cinema Day FAQs

What is Dolby cinema?

Dolby provides special technology that offers sharper, crisper images with better contrast and greater brightness for a better cinema experience.[1]

Are cinemas dying?

While some cinemas have struggled, they continue to bring fun to families and friends – and National Cinema Day is just one way to support them!

Does cinema mean movie theater?

Yes! Cinema is just another word (often in British English) for a movie theater.[2]

What is digital cinema?

Digital cinema simply means that the movie is played from computer hard drives rather than from 35mm film reels, which now are only really used for arthouse films.[3]

What was the first movie theater in the US?

In 1896, Vitascope Hall in New Orleans, LA, opened the world’s first for-profit movie theater.[4]

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