How to throw a movie theater birthday party

Miss L turned 6 last week (what?!?!) and had a pretty mature request for her birthday party: she wanted to take all of her friends to the movie theater! Well, it just so happened that the latest Walt Disney Animation Studios picture, Zootopia, was debuting the weekend after her birthday… what luck! So we decided to honor her wish and throw her a movie theater birthday party!


Step #1: Create a movie-themed invitation

What’s the easiest way to get everyone excited about going to see a movie? The invitations! Unfortunately, since it’s a newly released film, there weren’t any invitations in the store that we could buy and use. Instead, I hopped over to to grab a design and then printed them as 4×6 photos at Target in an hour! Total cost = $12

Step #2:  Buy your movie tickets!

These days you can rent a movie theater for yourself during the early morning hours for birthdays or private screenings. We looked into the prices for a private showing at Cinemark, which required a minimum of 50 tickets ($7.25) and 50 concession packages ($9.25/each) and a $100 fee ($925 minimum). Cinemark and Regal also had kid birthday party packages were available and started at $420 for 20 people.

We decided to simply go to the movies with a group, got out the movie times the week before and scheduled our party during the earliest showing of Zootopia. We arrived at the opening of the box office (9:25am) and bought our tickets that day. It actually turned out great since we didn’t need a guest count finalized until that morning, so we didn’t end up paying for guests that cancelled at the last moment. Some theaters allow you to buy group tickets at a discounted rate, which might be a good idea if you’re seeing a very popular movie on opening weekend!

Step #3: Buy favors and plastic cups (for popcorn)

Again, since the movie is so new there weren’t a lot of “favors” available to choose from, but we went with the simple and useful choice: Zootopia plastic cups!

These cups served three purposes: they allowed us to save seats for everyone by placing them in the cupholders in the theater, they were popcorn containers for the kids, and they were the Zootopia take-away for the event!

I bought 2 large popcorns for the day and filled up each of the cups with popcorn. Then I left the popcorn in the row with the kids for refills, which they handled perfectly! (p.s. you’ll never want to order a large popcorn again after you fill up 14 cups of popcorn from it and still have some left over…)

Step #4: Get everyone in and enjoy the movie

Mr. M stayed outside with Miss L to pass out the tickets as the guests arrived. They dropped off the presents and he was able to take them to the car that was parked nearby (another advantage to getting to the movie theater when it opens). I went inside, set up popcorn, saved the seats, grabbed booster seats and directed the guests to them as they arrived. The kids all ended up sitting in one row together with their parents behind them. Our start time for the party was 10:00am, and since the movie started at 10:15am, everyone got seated on time when the previews started up!

Step #5: Celebrate the birthday outside the theater with cupcakes and a rousing round of “Happy Birthday”

At the end of the movie, we asked everyone to meet outside in the lobby. We sang a rousing version of “Happy Birthday” to Miss L and then went and grabbed the cupcakes and favor bags to distribute to everyone as they left the theater.

Step #6: Say THANK YOU with movie-themed Thank You cards

End where you started… with another themed card! This time, I created a Thank You card using a Zootopia font and Zootopia coloring book pages. Miss L wrote them all out on Sunday afternoon, and they were in her backpack for delivery to her classroom on Monday morning!

And with that… I can honestly say we pulled off a great birthday party for Miss L! I’m so glad that she’ll have this wonderful memory of seeing Zootopia with all of her friends for  her sixth birthday! And checking out the upcoming slate of Disney movie releases… it looks like we can do it again when she turns 8 for WRECK IT RALPH 2!


  • Michelle Perry

    Thank you for posting this when you did. We had to cancel Zach’s original party last Sunday, and I remembered this post. So we all went to see Zootopia. The theater was nice enough to put a table out in the lobby for the cake after the movie, and the kids had cake in the lobby. Now to make thank you cards!

  • Christa

    Great ideas! Thanks for posting! I am trying to have a birthday party in a theatre but just discovered the extremely high cost to do so. Trolls comes out the week before our daughters (5th) birthday party so it would be perfect! I love your ideas but were the kids and parents disappointed the presents were just loaded up and not opened? I know the kids always love to see the birthday kiddo open their presents and I’m sure the parents like to see them open what they purchased so just wondering how people felt about not doing so?

  • Aandosmom

    I am not the poster, but this is a personal choice. We live in New England and I have only been to one birthday party where the birthday boy opened his presents in front of everyone. I have a 10 year old and a 7 year old and we have been to lots of parties. Typically present opening is done at home after the party since the venues have limited time slots AND it eliminates weird reactions when the birthday child opens duplicate gifts or something that is not of interest. One year my daughter received 4 headband crafting kits and 3 rainbow loom kits.

  • Temperance

    Thank you so much for this idea. I just got done sending Regal in Natomas a birthday request for a party at the end of this month. (February parties are so hard to plan). I’m going to “steal” this idea!

    • Kim

      Honest Juice Pouches. EASY to pack in a bag/purse to bring in! And they sell them at the movie theaters too!

  • Danielle

    How did you get the theater to let you bring food into the lobby? I’d think they wouldn’t allow it because they sell bday packages, so I’m curious to see how you did it!

    • Kim

      We went to the car, grabbed the cupcakes and met everyone AS THEY LEFT to give them a cupcake, so no food was taken inside the theater complex at all. We just sang Happy Birthday inside, since it was raining outside that day. :)

  • Em

    Great Post!. Did you buy the cups inside the theater or somewhere else? and how about the juices – did you buy that inside too?. Thank you:)

    • Kim

      We bought the cups at Party City and brought them inside. Also brought the juice bags (yes – we were naughty), but they sell those at concessions at most chains so you can buy them there!