Movies have been around for more than a century and we have all grown up with them. They have become an integral part of family entertainment, whether they leave us laughing or crying. Most of us have memories of our visits to the cinema with our parents and now we can enjoy movies with our children.

In days gone by, families would go exclusively to the cinema to watch movies as there were no televisions, videos or DVDs. Technology has now made it possible for people to experience movies in their own homes on large screens with great image quality due to the arrival of DVDs, cable-tv, and the internet.

Whilst the places where people can watch movies has changed, the magic of family movies remains.

Where can you find movies?

There are a wide range of choices for where to source movies, with each option varying in convenience and cost:

Rental Stores

DVDs (or videos) can be hired through the large chains of video stores throughout the country, or through online hiring companies. This is a relatively cheap way of viewing movies, as the whole family can view a new release for $8 overnight. If you don’t mind waiting a bit longer to watch new movies, you can pay as little as $2 or $3 per movie if you hire a few older ones at a time.

Retail Stores

When you really love a movie (or are a collector) you will want to buy your own copy on DVD/video that can sit in your “book” case. This is particularly cost-effective for children’s movies which kids love to watch over and over (and over) again. Most major retail shops have a wide variety of movies to choose from but prices will vary so watch out for specials. Keep your eyes open for the “junk” mail in your letterbox as often you can find great deals that will add to your family movie viewing. Another popular option is to buy second hand DVDs through TradeMe, at a fraction of the new retail price.


Nothing beats going to the cinema; taking the children out on a trip to see the latest animated feature or adaptation of their favorite book. The dark, the smell of popcorn – it makes watching movies an exciting experience! There are however, a couple of downsides to taking your family to the cinema – one is having to travel some distance to get there, and the other is the cost!

For a family of four, you can easily spend $50 – $60 on a visit to the movies. Once you have paid for admission, popcorn, ice cream and a drink for everyone, your wallet will look a lot thinner! One way to keep control of this cost is to bring all your food and drink with you (smuggled popcorn, lollies and bottled water are popular options!). Or, you can bring some food with you, and then restrict your children to a choice of one food item each (such as an ice-cream) from the cinema kiosk. Another money-saving tip is to go to the cinema on their quietest (and therefore) cheapest days. Many cinemas offer discounted rates on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Due to the relatively high cost of going to the movies, some families make such an outing a “special treat”. For example, you may choose only go to the movies on a birthday, or once each school holidays. Your frequency of visits is likely to be driven by the size of your family and your available budget.

What age can your child start going to the cinema?

In general, children are not ready to go to the cinema until about the age of 3 or 4. Prior to this you will find that they fidget, want to go the toilet, talk, get bored, drop their ice cream and generally annoy the other patrons!

It is much easier to watch a DVD at home with a small child because you can press “pause” and take a break as required. When you think that your child might be ready for the cinema, experiment first at home with DVDs. See if your child can sit through a whole movie without getting bored. Recreate the environment – dim the lights, get some popcorn if you want – make the whole experience exciting. Images, sounds and music all help develop the human brain.

For your first visit to the cinema, it is wise to try a matinee (daytime) showing of a children’s movie, then the audience generally won’t mind if your child remarks on the happenings on the screen, within reason. Of course, you’ll want to explain in advance that they can’t wander around and that they should try not to speak loudly.

Make sure you choose an appropriate movie; a movie for young children should be short (under 2 hours), contain no violent or scary scenes, and be easy to follow. Some preschoolers do not like scenes where a child or animal is hurt. In the end it comes down to knowing your own child.

Check out your local newspaper for listings of cinemas which have special screenings for parents with young children; some even have sessions for breastfeeding mothers.

How do you choose movies?

As parents we want to make sure that we choose movies which are appropriate for our children to watch. They must fit the child’s age, as well as our individual family’s values.

One way to get some broad guidance on movie choice is to check the classification of each movie. All movies for sale in New Zealand have been given a rating by the NZ Film & Video Labelling Body.

There are two broad groups of ratings: Unrestricted Movies (G, PG and M) which can be watched by any person, and Restricted Movies (designated by R, and an age) where there are strict laws about who may view them.

Unrestricted ratings include:

  • (G) Suitable for general audiences
  • (PG) Parental guidance recommended for younger viewers
  • (M) Suitable (but not restricted to) mature audiences 16 years of age and over

Restricted ratings include:

(R13) Restricted to audiences of 13 years or over.

(R15) Restricted to audiences of 15 years or over.

(R16) Restricted to audiences of 16 years or over.

(R18) Restricted to audiences of 18 years or over.

Generally the ratings and classifications also use descriptive notes

(e.g. Contains Violence, Offensive Language, etc).

Film labels are colour coded, almost like traffic lights:

  • GREEN means anyone can view a movie
  • YELLOW means that anyone can view the film, but the film may contain material such as violence or sexual themes, which may offend or upset some people. Parental guidance is advised before children view the film.
  • RED means that the film is legally restricted and can only be viewed by the audience specified. There are no exceptions to this restriction.

To help you choose suitable movies for your family, we will feature and review movies for children of different ages to watch, as well as those which can be viewed by the whole family. Kiwi Families will be covering classics and new releases – and will provide regularly updated lists of popular titles for different age groups.

We will also provide the opportunity for you, as a Member, to rank these movies out of 5 and add a short review if you would like to. Furthermore, on the Kiwi Families Forum you will be able to exchange movie information with other kiwi families and discover movies that will be just right for your children.

Great Movie Websites

A great parental movie review website

Easy-to-use site about family movies

This is an excellent resource for families. Merits two thumbs up…[Finally] movie ratings that actually work

A great parental movie review website

Unbiased reviews that objectively describe the actual content of movies so that parents and others can decide whether a movie/video/CD is appropriate for them and/or their kids based on THEIR values.

This is one of the better movie websites available. It will give you all you need to know about a specific movie – with comments from both professional reviewers as well as comments from your average movie viewer. Great links to other websites are provided as well.

More detailed info about the NZ movie classification system.

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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