With the awards season well under way and big blockbusters including Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: Episode IX on the horizon, here’s how to enjoy the latest releases at discount prices
It has never been easier to pick up a cheap deal at the cinema. Most cinemas will have their lowest prices at off-peak times. This means you can normally save by going early in the afternoon rather than in the evening, or mid-week rather than the weekend.
Some cinemas will also have one day with even lower prices – at Vue this is across the whole chain on its ‘Super Monday’ offer. It is worth comparing the prices at different cinemas, even within the same chain. You might find one is considerably cheaper simply because it is in a less fashionable area.
Many cinemas try to boost ticket receipts by adding reclining seats and premium rows, which come at a cost yet don’t add much to the overall cinema experience. Avoid these if you want to save money.
3D screenings will also cost you more, but see if there is a discount for bringing along the special specs you picked up on a previous visit. It is also worth smuggling in your own snacks if you want to avoid the eye-watering mark-up applied to popcorn.
If you are willing to hunt for special offers, it is possible to get cut-price tickets even at the weekend. Groupon and LivingSocial regularly run promotions where tickets are heavily discounted. Schemes, such as Tastecard and Kids Pass, promise up to 40% off at cinemas alongside savings elsewhere.
These discounts are off a set ticket price, no matter where you live, so you might find your local cinema is cheaper already. You can usually find free trials to give these services a go. Other loyalty schemes also have cinema incentives – including insurers, mobile phone networks and banks. And there are ways to get these offers without moving your custom.
Fancy going for free? Well, check in your newspaper or sign up for services such as ShowFilmFirst for free preview screenings across the country. Cinema-goers can also save with annual memberships, offering free tickets or even unlimited entry. Yet the value for money will depend on how often you go, as our investigation reveals.
Are cinema memberships worth it?
We’ve taken a look at the schemes offered by the major cinema chains. All have a 12-month minimum term. In the table opposite we’ve broken down the membership options, cost and price per ticket based on 52 visits and 24 visits.
The key to an annual membership is how often you visit the cinema. All the schemes will save you money if you are an avid filmgoer.
The price per ticket works out at just over £4 at both Odeon and Cineworld if you’re seeing a film every week outside London. But the fewer films you see, the more the price creeps up. Memberships become less competitive even if you go twice a month, with a seat working out at £9 or more with most chains.
Cinema annual membership fees and how much you can save on tickets
|Chain||Annual cost||Membership includes||Cost per ticket if you go once a week (52 times)||Cost per ticket if you go twice a month (24 times)|
|Odeon Limitless||£215.88 (£239.88 to include five central London locations) 5% discount if whole year is paid upfront||Unlimited 2D screenings, including at 'luxe' screens Free previews 10% off food and drink||£4.15 (£4.61 in London)||£8.99 (£9.99 in London)|
|Cineworld Unlimited||£214.80 (£244.80 to include two central London locations)||Unlimited 2D screenings 3D also free after one year Free previews 10% off food and drink||£4.13 (£4.70 in London)||£8.95 (£10.20 in London)|
|Everyman 'Everyman'||£95||Seven tickets included Bring guest for free on Mondays||£13.57 for the first seven tickets, then full price|
|Everyman 'EveryIcon'||£300||24 tickets included Bring guest for free on Mondays 10% off food and drink||£12.50 for the first 24 tickets, then full price|
|Everyman 'Everywhere'||£600||Unlimited tickets for two Bring guest for free on Mondays 10% off food and drink||£5.77 if two people go to each screening||£12.50 if two people go to each screening|
|Curzon 'Classic'||£50 (£65 to include London)||Four tickets included Money off further tickets 15% off food and drink||£12.50 for the first four tickets then discount on full price (£16.25 in London)|
|Curzon 'Cult'||£200 (£350 to include London)||Entry to all films Money off guest tickets 15% off food and drink||£3.85 (£6.73 in London)||£8.33 (£14.58 in London)|
|Curzon 'Complete'||£600 (£950 to include London)||Entry to all films for you and a guest, including opera and theatre screenings 15% off food and drink||£5.77 if two people go to every screening (£9.13 in London if two people go to every screening)||£12 if two people go to every screening (£19.79 in London if two people go to every screening)|
|Picturehouse||£52 (£65 to include most London locations or £90 to include the Picturehouse Central)||Four 2D tickets + free previews £2 discount on further tickets (£3 discount with Picturehouse Central membership) 10% off food and drink||£13 for the first four tickets, then £2 off each ticket (£16.25 in London/£22.50 including Picturehouse Central)|
Note: Some cinemas offer cheaper concession memberships for students and seniors. Source: Moneywise.co.uk, 13 February 2019
You also need to be loyal to one chain. Not all cinemas show the films you want to see or screen them at times to suit you, which means you will pay for a ticket at a rival location.
Another factor to consider is competition. Big cities will have multiple cinemas in close proximity, and that means you’re likely to be able to use a special offer or even find a cut-price fleapit (though hopefully without any fleas). There are a few ways to add some value to these memberships.
Cineworld’s Unlimited membership has the most. It can be combined with Meerkat Movies, allowing you to bring a friend for free on Tuesday or Wednesday. You can exchange Tesco Clubcard points for triple value or if a friend refers you, then you both get an extra month for free.
Meanwhile, Curzon lets members bring a friend for free on Monday. And if you can avoid central London screens, you can also bring down the annual membership cost at Odeon, Cineworld, Picturehouse and Curzon.
Watch at home
Thanks to streaming technology, it has never been easier or cheaper to watch films from your sofa. For a start, you may be able to ditch your pricey Sky Cinema subscription. Unless you have haggled for a discount, you will be paying around £10 a month to add movies to your TV package, and likely be tied in for 18 months.
A huge £180. Yet you can get exactly the same channels and films on demand via the internet streaming service NOW TV. Owned by Sky, it costs the same each month, but differs in two key ways.
First, you rarely need to pay full price. Introductory offers regularly start you off with 50% off, while customers are often offered further discounts when they go to cancel. Second, you only have to commit to 30 days. So you can pick and choose when you watch and sign back up when you’ve spotted a decent deal.
Elsewhere, Netflix and Amazon Prime subscribers also have access to a huge back catalogue of movies. Both offer 30-day free trials.
Classic and arthouse services BFI Player and Mubu have a 14-day and seven-day trial respectively. Don’t forget iPlayer has a library of films recently broadcast on the BBC – all for free. If you choose to rent on a film-by-film basis, there are ways to save here too. Sky Store and iTunes tend to charge £5.49 a go for new releases. Yet the same titles are often available for £3.49 from Google Play, Amazon and Rakuten.
Movies in the mail
Finally, for those of you who yearn for the days of Blockbuster Video or don’t have decent enough broadband to handle streaming, you can still rent physical DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. Your local library is a good place to start if you’re an occasional viewer. It is likely only to cost you a few pounds.
If there is a title you really want, you can pay a little extra to reserve it or order it from another library. Alternatively, Cinema Paradiso will deliver films to you by post. Packages start from £5.18 for two discs a month.
At the top end, you can pay £12.98 for two discs at once and an unlimited number a month. As with the streaming services, you can sign up on a month-by-month basis.
Find a deal via a loyalty scheme
Six free tickets with Lloyds Bank
If you open up a Club Lloyds current account, you will be able to choose six free tickets every year at either Vue or Cineworld. You don’t need to switch to get this freebie, though you do need to transfer in £1,500 every month to avoid a £3 monthly fee.
Simply set up a standing order to move the money in from your existing bank account and then another to move it back.
2-4-1 tickets buying cover via Compare the Market
If you buy an eligible insurance policy via Compare the Market, you will get access to the Meerkat Movies app. This provides a code that gives you two-for-one tickets at cinemas including Odeon, Cineworld and Vue. You get one code a week, and it can be used on either Tuesday or Wednesday. And you can get this by spending just £1.
The trick is to search for a UK travel insurance policy for one night and for one person. Don’t worry about any extras as you won't actually use the policy. This should come in at around £1 and your Meerkat Movies membership will be valid for a year.
Two Odeon tickets for £7 with MyVodafone
A weekly offer on Vodafone’s loyalty app is two Odeon tickets for £7, bringing them in at a bargain £3.50 each. If you’re not with the network but you live near a pricey Odeon, it could be worth picking up a free Vodafone pay-as-you-go SIM.
You need to top it up by £10 every six weeks and you will need an unlocked handset. Yet go twice in that timeframe and tickets will still work out at £6 each.