Summer heat and afternoon thunderstorms can make air-conditioned movie theaters seem pretty appealing during the hot months in the Lowcountry, but have you seen what tickets cost?

The good news is that there are plenty of easy ways to go to the movies for less, and that can add up to big savings for a family with kids.

If you are a AAA member, you can save as much as $3 per ticket by purchasing discounted movie tickets through the auto club. For example, discounted tickets for Regal theaters are $7.50, or $8.50 for new releases, compared to the $10.50 adult rate in Mount Pleasant.

If your family goes to lots of movies, those savings can add up, but that depends on where you like to go. Regal theater in North Charleston charges $3 less per ticket than the one in Mount Pleasant, so the AAA discount doesn't help there.

If you have a Visa Signature credit card, there's a get-one-free movie ticket deal (with purchase) through online movie ticket seller Fandango, good on Fridays through Aug. 8, and a 20-percent-off deal on Fandango gift cards through Sept. 30. Visit tickets.fandango.com/visasignature.

One way to get free movie tickets this summer is through a Kellogg's promotion. Collect codes from six specially marked cereal or Pop-Tarts boxes, enter them on the promotion website, and get a free movie ticket.

The last time this promotion was around, my family got six free tickets - we eat a lot of cereal. And with grocery stores selling cereal for as little as $2 a box on sale, that means you could spend $12 and get six boxes of cereal and a movie ticket worth up to $12.

Of course, most theaters offer discounted adult tickets for daytime matinees, and discounts for seniors and those in the military. Also look for special-price days, such as Tuesdays at Cinebarre in Mount Pleasant, when all tickets are $6 (with surcharges for 3-D shows).

At many theaters, an "adult" is anyone over the age of 10.

The best deal for young children, who are less picky about seeing first-run films, is the very cheap or free movies offered at many theaters during summer vacation.

The Terrace Theatre on James Island offers free movies for kids under 10 every Wednesday at 11 a.m. For those 10 and older, tickets for those shows are $4. (The Post and Courier and Lowcountry Parent are sponsors).

Most films are older classics such as "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" (July 9) and "E.T." (July 16). Visit terracetheater.com for listings or call 762-9494.

Several national theater chains are offering kids movies during weekday mornings, for prices ranging from free to a dollar per ticket. These theaters are all offering similar movies, but on different days and on different schedules, so on any given week you'll have options.

At the Regal Palmetto Grande Stadium 16 in Mount Pleasant and Regal Charles Towne Square Stadium 18 in North Charleston, select movies are offered every Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 a.m. for one dollar.

The films are all PG rated and are mostly cartoon features also available on DVD and streaming services, such as "Hotel Transylvania" and "Despicable Me 2." But for a dollar, you can see them on the big screen. For listings visit www.regmovies.com/Movies/Summer-Movie-Express

Southeast Cinemas (Northwoods Mall, Citadel Mall) offers the best price - free - for kids movies on Tuesdays and Thursdays at all locations, at 10 a.m. The July 8 and 10 show is the film "Epic." Upcoming listings do not appear to be available online.

Cinemark Movies 8 (Ladson) offers dollar kids movies at 10 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, but if you buy a pack of 10 tickets online, the price drops to 50 cents. Visit www.cinemark.com/summer-movie-clubhouse for listings.

If air-conditioned theaters aren't your top priority, there are plenty of cheap or free outdoor movies this summer.

Cinebarre has free outdoor shows in the Mount Pleasant theater's parking lot (bring a chair) on Thursday nights with classics such as "Jaws" (July 10) and "Caddyshack" (July 17). Shows start at dusk.

At Mount Pleasant's Memorial Waterfront Park you can watch "Alice in Wonderland" (2010 version) on July 25 or "The Princess Bride" on Aug. 22, with free shows starting around 9 p.m.

At Wannamaker Park in North Charleston, outdoor films are scheduled July 12 ("The Little Mermaid"), Aug. 9, and Sept. 13. Movies are free, but it costs $1 per person to get into the park unless you have a Gold Pass.

In Summerville, the town will offer free films in Gahagan Park on Friday nights, Aug. 8, 22, and 29.

This list isn't comprehensive, but it should provide a good start toward saving money on movies this summer, particularly for families.