How to get free and cheap cinema tickets
Feel like trips to the cinema just keep getting more and more expensive? We've got loads of tips for getting cheap (and even free!) movie tickets.
Despite the rise of Netflix, cinema is still big business these days. And whether you're off to see the latest superhero blockbuster or a chick-flick, it can be seriously expensive (and if you go full whack, prices can verge on the ridiculous).
But there are loads of tricks you can pull to avoid paying through the nose to watch a movie on the big screen – and in some cases, even blag your tickets for free!
We've pulled together all the hints, tips and insider secrets we know, and we can guarantee you'll learn a new trick or two by the end.
How to get free cinema tickets
If you're looking for free cinema tickets, then film preview screenings are your best bet. 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 them, it's easy marketing.
Here are some of the best places to sign up for free 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 stuff you miss.
There's even a forum where people offer up tickets if they can no longer make it to the screening themselves. It's basically a one-stop shop for all things free film related.
Show Film First
As a member of Show Film First, you'll get to access to free tickets for films, theatre, comedy and gigs. 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 conditions to membership mean you can't brag on social media about your freebies, and you have to provide constructive feedback afterwards.
You also get offered tickets based on your personal information, so you don't get to pick whatever you want – but you should never turn down free stuff, right?
E4 Slackers Club
This is a great one to make the most of while you're a student! E4, in collaboration with Picturehouse Cinemas, offer students 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 cheap date night option?
How to get cheap cinema tickets and save on food
Get 2-for-1 cinema tickets
Spending a few quid on some travel insurance for your holiday (you can get a day policy for just a couple of quid) 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', where you're given 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!
Try out Screen Unseen
If you're not picky about your movie choices, or fancy trying something a bit different, then Screen Unseen can be loads of fun!
You pay just £5 for a ticket to 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 if you're worried about ending up sitting in a terrifying horror movie, don't panic! They have Scream Unseen for the thrill seekers out there.
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 to see previews of new blockbusters before they're open to the public and for FREE.
You'll also get free tickets to use at any Odeon branch and 12 free tickets for friends and family every three months.
Other perks include first dibs on official movie posters and 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 which come with super cool perks.
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’ and more legroom – don’t fall for this!
Opt for 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 15–20% discounts on tickets for screenings before 5pm Mon–Thurs (excluding bank holidays).
Vue cinemas also run 'Super Mondays', where all tickets are on average 18% cheaper than a regular ticket (although discounts vary depending on location). Claim your Super Monday code here and use it at checkout to get your discount.
Invest in a cinema 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. These cards allow you to go see as many movies as you want for a set monthly fee.
You only need to go 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!
Picturehouse student memberships cost £25/year and this will get you two free tickets a year plus 25% off all other tickets. You're allowed to take up to three guests to each film and they'll receive the same discount as you, plus you get 25% off food and drink.
If you have a Showcase cinema near you, their Insider Club also offers discounts on 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!
Enter film and cinema 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 comper!
Student discount at the cinema
The easiest money-saving trick in the book is to make use of your student card!
Make sure you always take your student ID with you, as many cinemas won’t print you a student ticket unless you have proof.
A TOTUM/NUS extra card will do the same trick, and amazingly, Odeon cinemas also offer an additional 25% off student-priced tickets if you have one. Wowza!
Cinema tickets on O2 Priority and Three Wuntu
Anyone who's on O2 or Three will already be familiar with the plentiful perks of O2 Priority and Wuntu respectively.
Amongst other deals like cheap meal deals and various freebies, you can often get 50% off full-price tickets at major cinema chains.
Opt for cheap cinema snacks
We all know just how criminally overpriced cinema food is, and the simple solution is... don't buy it.
This dad of two 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 carrot sticks during an intense thriller.
Look out for food and drinks deals (such as half price pick n mix) for extra savings.
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, at the time of writing you could get £8.70 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 an online cashback guide to help you with that.
Buy large cinema food
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 buying 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 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 because it seems like better value is a false economy.
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'll get to see a lot of interesting films that won't always make it to the bigger screens.
These screens often have a bit more atmosphere about them, with quirky bars and restaurants – and they often put on movie marathons, fancy dress screenings and sing-alongs!
Also, it's always good to support your local independent cinemas!
Use cinema loyalty cards
As well as the Limitless membership card, Odeon also runs Odeon Premiere Club, which is a bit more like a loyalty card. As a Premiere Club member, you earn 10 points for every £1 you spend on tickets, which can then be spent on tickets and food at the cinema (one ticket would cost around 800 points/£80).
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 number 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! Every 50p of Clubcard points is worth £1.50 to spend at Cineworld on tickets or snacks.
If you have a Tastecard, you can get up to 40% off tickets at Vue, Cineworld, Picturehouse, Showcase and... too many more to mention.
Avoid 3D screenings
3D screenings cost on average £2 more than a 2D ticket at the same cinema.
So 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!
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 on how to eat out on a budget!