How to get free and cheap cinema tickets
Feel like trips to the cinema just keep getting more and more expensive? We have loads of tips for getting cheap (and free!) movie tickets.
Despite the rise of their cheaper rival, Netflix, cinemas are still hugely popular. But, as great as it is to go out to see a film, it can be seriously expensive. And if you go full whack, prices might verge on the ridiculous!
Thankfully, there are loads of ways to save money on watching movies on the big screen – and in some cases, it's even possible to get your cinema tickets for free.
We've pulled together all the hints, tips and insider secrets we know. We can guarantee you'll learn a new trick or two by the end.
How to get free cinema tickets
Here are the best places to get free cinema tickets for preview screenings:
Free Movies UK
Free Movies UK is essentially a giant forum where savvy film buffs post links to sign up for free preview tickets, as well as links to competitions where you can win tickets to film screenings and premieres.
Many of the links will be from sites like Show Film First (see below) but it's useful to see everything in one place. And, other users might spot some free film opportunities that you've previously missed.
There's even a forum where people offer up free cinema tickets if they can no longer make it to the screening themselves. It's basically a one-stop-shop to hear of films you can watch without having to pay a penny.
As a member of ShowFilmFirst, you'll get access to free tickets for films, comedy, music gigs and theatre shows. The only catch is that membership is by approval only, and based on your demographic information and location – so there are no guarantees you'll get accepted.
The membership conditions mean you can't brag on social media about your great freebies, and you have to provide constructive feedback afterwards.
Also, the tickets you're offered are based on your personal information, so you don't get to pick whatever you want. But as you'll be watching films and shows for free, the limited choice is definitely worth it.
E4 Big Screen Previews
E4 Big Screen Previews are ideal for any students looking to watch movies for free. E4, in collaboration with Picturehouse Cinemas, offers 16–25 year-olds a free film screening every month – and it's completely free to sign up.
They're pretty decent movies too, so perfect for an end-of-exams treat – or a free date night option...
Why do film companies offer free film preview tickets?
Companies want people to watch movies when they're first released to help generate word-of-mouth buzz and excitement. And that means they're willing to give away free tickets for film preview screenings.
Ultimately, it's easy marketing to help promote movies, and it just so happens to be ideal for anyone hoping to watch free films.
How to get cheap cinema tickets and save on food
These are the best ways to save money at the cinema and get cheap movie tickets:
Get 2-for-1 cinema tickets
Spending a few quid on travel insurance for your holiday (you can get a day policy for just a couple of pounds) or contents insurance for your student house 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 'Meerkat Movies'. This gives you a code every week that you can use for 2-for-1 movie tickets on either a Tuesday or a Wednesday.
You'll receive your code every week via the Meerkat Movies app, which you simply show at the box office or use when booking online to get your discount.
If you don't have a 2-for-1 code, or you have one that you're not using one week, head over to our Facebook group to make requests and share with other students.
Avoid cinema seat upgrades
Some cinemas are bold enough to charge extra for seats with the best view, or for ones that have 'extra comfort' and more legroom. 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 same view for much less cash.
Try Screen Unseen
If you're not picky about your movie choices, or fancy trying something a bit different, then Screen Unseen is definitely worth a try.
You pay just £6 for a ticket when you book as a myODEON member online (or £7 if you buy it in-cinema) for a screening. But you won't find out what the film is until you're sat in your seat and the movie begins.
The risk here is obviously that you could end up seeing a movie that you hate. But you could also find your new favourite flick, and save money in the process.
If you're worried about ending up sitting in a terrifying horror movie, don't panic! They also have Scream Unseen for the thrill-seekers out there.
Enter film and cinema competitions
There are almost always competitions going on that offer free yearly cinema memberships to lucky winners.
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 usually post about big 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 comper.
Get a job at the cinema
If you're looking for a part-time job at uni that comes with some serious perks, then a job at your local cinema is a great option.
For example, at Odeon you'll get a free Odeon colleague Unlimited film pass and free guest tickets for friends and family.
Other perks include 40% off food and drink, including at Costa, Ben & Jerry's and other in-store franchises.
If you can't find any vacancies at the cinema, there are loads of other jobs that come with great perks.
Buy off-peak cinema times
Getting your timing right can make a substantial difference when it comes to cinema tickets. Big chains such as Odeon, Vue and Cineworld offer discounts on tickets for screenings during off-peak times.
For example, myOdeon members have access to cheap Saver tickets all day on a Monday, as well as at selected showings Tuesday – Sunday. Membership is free and tickets start from just £5.
Invest in a cinema membership card
If you're passionate about the silver screen and you have a reliable network of cinemas near you, investing in a membership card could save you a lot of money on films. These cards allow you to see as many movies as you want for a set monthly fee.
You only need to go to the cinema around three times a month in order to break even, so any additional trips will basically be free. But don't invest in a membership card if you won't go often enough to save cash! Here are some of the best ones available:
- Odeon Limitless – £14.99/month (£17.99 for West End cinemas).
- Cineworld Unlimited – starts at £10.99/month.
- Picturehouse student memberships – £20/year (or £25/year for the West End Student Membership) and this will get you two free tickets a year and 25% off food and drinks.
- Showcase Cinema's Insider Club – free to join but will give you discounts on tickets all day Monday and Tuesday, on Sunday showings after 7pm, plus 10% off food and drinks. They sometimes also dish out free film preview tickets, so it's definitely worth signing up!
Use student discount at the cinema
The easiest money-saving trick in the book is to make use of your student discount. Not all cinemas offer a student discount, but it's always worth asking when buying a ticket.
Make sure you always take your student ID with you, as a lot of cinemas won't print you a student ticket unless you have proof.
Get cheap cinema tickets on O2 Priority, Vodafone VeryMe and Three+
Anyone who's on O2, Vodafone or Three will already be familiar with the plentiful perks of O2 Priority, VeryMe Rewards and Three+ Rewards respectively.
However, the great news is that even if you're not an O2 customer, you can use a trick to get O2 Priority Moment deals on any phone.We also have loads of tips on how to get free or cheap theatre tickets.
Bring cheap cinema snacks
We all know just how criminally overpriced cinema food is, and the simple solution is: don't buy it.
Choosing your cinema snacks carefully is important though – you don't want to be that guy noisily munching your way through carrot sticks during an intense thriller.
Look out for food and drinks deals for extra savings.
Buy large cinema food
If you are going to 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.
Buying one large drink and large popcorn is substantially cheaper than getting individual small ones and will deliver you a similar quantity. Of course, the big catch here is that you'll have to share your food.
It's worth remembering, though, that the mark-up on cinema popcorn is insane.
For example, you can get two 170g bags of Butterkist toffee popcorn (340g altogether) from Tesco for £4. But, a large popcorn at the cinema is usually about 250g, and you'd generally expect to pay at least £5+ for it – so you'd likely be getting less popcorn, for more money.
Because of this, if you are buying food at the cinema, try to be realistic about how much you'll be able to eat – going large just because it seems like better value is a false economy and will create food waste.
Buy your tickets through discount websites
There are a few discount sites that offer cinema tickets at greatly discounted prices.
Some of the best deals we've found were from Fever who offer Vue cinema tickets from £3.99 and Odeon tickets from £6.99.
Wowcher and Groupon also sometimes offer deals on bundles of cinema tickets. At the time of writing, both sites were offering five or 10 Vue cinema tickets at locations nationwide for £22 or £40 respectively. That's a saving of up to 45%.
Just make sure you check the terms as the redemption period can be limited, so unless you're planning on heading to the cinema more than twice a week, these work best for a group trip to the movies.
Use cashback sites to buy cinema tickets
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.
Make sure you understand exactly how earning cashback works before you sign up – we've got an online cashback guide to help you with that.
Use cinema loyalty cards
Loyalty cards are a great way of saving money on cinema tickets.
For example, Tesco Clubcard holders are able to exchange points for Cineworld tickets – and at a higher value than the points are worth! Every 50p of Clubcard points is worth £1 to spend at Cineworld on tickets or snacks.
If you register on the Lidl Plus app, you can get yourself a free membership to The Cinema Society. This gets you up to 40% off cinema tickets for ODEON, Vue, Showcase, Empire, Reel Cinemas and many more across the UK. You can also use the discount to buy tickets for friends and family.
Go to independent cinemas
Independent cinemas are usually 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'll get to see a lot of great indie films that won't always make it to the bigger screens.
Plus, it's always good to support your local independent cinemas.
Avoid 3D screenings
3D screenings usually cost a few pounds more than a 2D ticket at the same cinema.
So it's worth asking yourself if it's really worth the extra cash – would you be just as satisfied if you watched the film on a standard 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.
Have a movie night 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.
Planning on grabbing a bite to eat after that cheeky trip to the cinema? Take a look at our guide to eating out on a budget.
* Prices are correct at the time of writing.