Love a jaunt to the cinema but hate the fact it costs the same as your entire weekly food budget? We’ve got some pro tips to keep costs down.
Whether you’re a fan of the big blockbusters or prefer the arty-farty flicks, the costs of a trip to the cinema can really add up (and if you go full whack, prices can verge on the ridiculous).
But there are a fair few tricks you can pull to avoid paying through the nose for the experience – and in some cases, even blag your tickets for free!
It’s just a matter of knowing the what, where and the how. And that’s where we come in!
15 cinema money-saving hacks
1. Sign up for free previews
One of the best kept secrets of the movie-lover’s world, there are a few ways you can get access to preview screenings without having to pay for a ticket.
Free Movies UK is a forum where film buffs share codes for free screening tickets. All you have to do is sign up to the forum and wait for codes to be posted, then apply for your ticket. Sign up to email alerts to you snap up tickets before they’re gone. Same goes for Show Film First, Freecinema.co.uk and Total Film Screening Club, too!
Students can also get access to free preview screenings at Picturehouse Cinemas when they sign up to the E4 Slackers Club page on Facebook.
Odeon offers Screen Unseen previews for £5 if you sign up to their mailing list. The only drawback is that you don’t know what movie is showing until you’re sat in your seat, but the bonus is you’ll get to see films you wouldn’t have thought of seeing otherwise!
2. Get 2-4-1 cinema tickets
Gone are the days of our beloved Orange Wednesdays *sniff*, but spending a few quid on some travel insurance for your holiday (you can get a day policy for as little as £3) or contents insurance for your student digs could come with an extra perk – 2 for 1 cinema tickets for a year!
Take out an insurance policy through the comparison site Compare the Market and you’ll be able to opt in for ‘Meercat Movies’, where you’re given a voucher every week that you can use for a two for one movie on either a Tuesday or a Wednesday.
You can also get 2 for 1 tickets if you subscribe to the Times’ student pack. The subscription costs £20 a year, and with it you’ll get 2 for 1 tickets at the Odeon on weekends (you can used your student discount on top of that, too) plus access to free screenings too.
3. Avoid seat upgrades
Some cinemas are bold enough to charge up to £3 more for seats with the best view, or that have ‘extra comfort’ seats – don’t fall for this!
As long as you book your tickets nice and early, you’ll be able to choose a seat directly in front of the expensive seats, with the exact same view for much less cash.
4. Go off-peak
Choosing your timing right can make a substantial difference when it comes to cinema tickets. Big chains such as Odeon, Vue cinemas and Cineworld offer between 15-20% discounts on tickets for midweek screenings before 5pm Mon-Thurs (excluding bank holidays).
Vue cinemas also run ‘Super Tuesdays’ where all tickets are on average 18% cheaper than a regular ticket (although discounts vary depending on location).
To get your cheap ticket, you can either sign up online or text SUPER and your email address to 51055. They’ll email you a unique code that you can then enter online when buying your ticket, or quote at the ticket desk.
5. Invest in a membership card
If you’re passionate about the silver screen and you have a reliable network of cinemas near you, invest in a membership card.
You only need to go 3 times a month in order to break even, so any additional trips will basically be free.
A Cineworld Unlimited card will set you back £17.90/month and Odeon Limitless cards are £17.99/month (£19.99 in London).
Picturehouse memberships cost £39/year and this will get you 3 free tickets a year plus £2 off other tickets. The membership also means you don’t have to pay booking fee on tickets (£1.60 saving) and you’ll get an additional 3 months of membership free if you pay by direct debit. Oh, and you also get 10% off food and drink!
If you have a Showcase cinema near you, their Insider Club also offers £6.50 tickets all day Monday and Tuesday, and on Sunday showings after 7pm. The membership is free, and also comes with money off food and drink – you just need to fill out an online form. Apparently they sometimes dish out tickets to free previews, too!
6. Enter competitions
There’s almost always one competition or another going on for yearly cinema memberships.
A good way to stay in the know is to follow all the cinema chains in your area on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – they’ll normally post about competitions there first.
There are loads of tricks you can pull to increase your chances of winning competitions – so much so, we even wrote a guide on how to become a professional!
7. Use your student discount
Even if you’re just an occasional cinema-goer and you don’t take advantage of student price tickets, then you need to take a long hard look at yourself!
Make sure you always take your student ID with you, as many cinemas won’t print you a student ticket unless you have proof. An NUS extra card will do the same trick (and you can get one even if you’re *cough* already a graduate *cough*).
Amazingly, Odeon cinemas also offer an additional 25% off student-priced tickets if you have an NUS extra card. Wowza!
8. Look out for O2 priority deals
Anyone who’s an O2 customer already will be familiar with the plentiful perks of O2 priority.
Amongst other deals like cheap meal deals and various freebies, you can often get 50% off full-price tickets at major cinema chains.
HOWEVER the great news is, even if you’re not an O2 customer try using this trick to take full advantage of Priority perks!
9. BYOS (Bring your own snacks)
We all know just how criminally overpriced cinema scran is, and the simple solution is… don’t buy it.
This dad of two recently went on a rampage after he found himself shelling out £70 to take his two kids to see a film….£70!!!
Choosing your snacks carefully is important though – you don’t want to be that guy noisily munching your way through a punnet of carrot sticks during an intense thriller.
10. Use cashback sites
Keep an eye out for cashback deals from the likes of Quidco and TopCashBack. There are often some great cashback deals floating about, particularly when it comes to paying for your monthly cinema membership card online.
For example, right now you can get around £9 cashback on a Cineworld Unlimited card at both TopCashBack and Quidco.
Make sure you understand exactly how earning cash back works before you sign up – we’ve got a guide to help you with that.
11. Go large and share
If you are gonna splash out on some cinema food (we admit, a movie without popcorn can be a sorry state of affairs), make sure you get your money’s worth.
One large drink and large popcorn is substantially cheaper than 2 sets of smalls, and will deliver you a similar quantity.
The only serious catch involved is that this tip involves sharing food 🙁
It’s worth remembering that the mark-up on cinema popcorn is insane (around 900%!) so try to be realistic about how much you’ll be able to eat – going large just cause it seems like better value is a false economy.
12. Go to independent cinemas
Independent cinemas do tend to be cheaper than the big chains. Sure, the screens are generally a bit smaller and they might not always be showing the big blockbusters, but you will get to see a lot of interesting films that won’t always make it to the bigger screens.
Also, it’s always good to support your local independent cinemas!
13. Get involved with loyalty cards
As well as the Limitless membership card, Odeon also run the Odeon Premier Club, which works a bit more like a loyalty card. With Premier Club, you earn 10 points for every £1 you spend on tickets, which can then be spent on tickets and food at the cinema (1 ticket would cost around 800 points).
You do have to buy the package first, though, and your one-off payment can be anything from £1.99 to a tenner, depending on which package you want – classic, deluxe or ultimate.
The only difference between each card is how many points are already on there, so it’s worth weighing up what you can actually buy with the amount of points on each card, as it might not be economical to shell out for anything above a ‘classic’.
If you have a Nectar card, 500 points will get you a £2.50 discount on a ticket at Vue cinemas. Just hand over your Nectar card at the ticket desk and tell them how many of your points you’d like to spend (you can pay in blocks of 500 points).
Tesco Clubcard holders are also able to exchange points for Cineworld tickets – and at a higher value than the points are worth! If you have £4.50 worth of clubcard points, this can be exchanged for an adult ticket which normally costs anything between £6.50-£10 for a student.
14. Avoid 3D screenings
They might be all the rage these days, but 3D screenings cost on average £2.00 more than a 2D ticket at the same cinema.
Therefore, it’s worth asking yourself if it’s really worth the extra cash – could you be just as satisfied if you watched the film on a normal big screen?
If you don’t have 3D glasses of your own, you’ll need to shell out for those too. You can get them for as little as a quid these days though, so just make sure you hold on to them for the next round!
15. Create your own at home
Sure, a trip to the cinema is always going to be fun, but you can’t beat a good movie marathon at home with friends.
Check out our guide to the cheapest ways to watch movies at home – you’ll be spoilt for choice!