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Illustration: Dan Evans

9 tips for saving money at the movies

Don’t let a trip to the cinema break the bank. Here’s our guide on seeing movies for less in London

By David Hughes

A top seat at one of the West End’s flagship cinemas can now set you back an eye-watering, wallet-lightening £40. And that's before you've even picked up some popcorn. But don’t despair – while tix to the flix can be overwhelming costly, especially if you’re seeing the latest 3D blockbuster, there are plenty of ways to catch the latest movies without having to take out a loan. All it takes is a little bit of planning, some imagination and you’ll open yourself up to heaps of movie magic. So, without further ado, here are some handy hacks to help you see movies for less.

Recommended: The latest films in cinemas now

1. Go early in the week

Swerve the weekend rush and head to the cinema in the first half of the week. With the exception of bank holidays, Monday seats at Crouch End’s charming ArtHouse, the lovely Lexi Cinema, Stoke Newington’s ace Rio and Shoreditch’s Rich Mix cost £7, and just £6 at the Barbican. And local fave the Walthamstow Empire has £4.25 seats on Tuesdays. Oh, and sign up to MASSIVE Cinema who regularly offer £3 tickets on Mondays with a MASSIVE Pass.

2. Sign up for a sneak preview

Studios love to get an early reaction to their upcoming releases with special preview screenings. If you fancy seeing things first and for free – annoying your friends in the process – sign up with ShowFilmFirst or agencies like Stretch and elevenfiftyfive. Tickets are free, though you may be asked to share your opinion after the movie. Yep, everyone’s a critic. 

Peckhamplex. Picture: Rob Greig

3. Take a family (preferably your own)

It may not be worth starting breeding especially for this, but if you have kids already, most of the big chains, like Odeon and Cineworld, offer discounts for families, while the Barbican’s Family Film Club adults pay £3.50 and children £2.50, which works out at just £12 for a family of four. The Vue Wood Green’s Mini Mornings have (Saturday, Sunday and school holiday mornings) price adult and child tickets at £2.49 when you buy online (£3.49 at the venue), and family friendly films are £5 for every ticket type at the lovely Lexi, which is cheaper even for the family from ‘Cheaper by the Dozen.

4. Invest in an all-you-can-see deal

If you’re one of those people who needs to catch everything – yes, even ‘Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey’ – an all-you-can-watch deal like Odeon’s myLimitless (now only £14.99 per month) or Cineworld Unlimited (even better value from £10.99 per month) is the way to go, while Whitechapel’s has an unlimited deal for screens 1-3 with 3, 6 or 12 month stretches available. Like a gym membership, it works out cheaper the more you use it – and the only hard bodies you’ll have to compete with are on the screen.

5. Get to a matinée

Not only are cinemas quieter early in the day, they’re often cheaper too. Most cinemas have discounted matinée showings from Tuesday to Friday, while Odeon and Cineworld give discounts on weekdays before 5pm. Tickets are £8 Tuesday to Thursdays before 5pm at the Lexi. Even better, you’re unlikely to be stuck next to someone glued to their phone throughout the movie.


Rio Cinema
Photograph: Alistair WiperRio Cinema

6. Stay local

The chances are your nearest indie cinema will have a great deal to take advantage of. If you live anywhere near Rye Lane, the Peckhamplex (£4.99 every day) is probably already firmly on your radar, but throughout April, the Genesis in Whitechapel is offering a flat rate of £5 per ticket. Rio Friends pay £5 all day Tuesdays and get other benefits like discounts, free screenings and no booking fees, while memberships at ArtHouse are currently 25 percent off, and each comes with 25 percent off food, drink and tickets – even already-discounted Monday and Tuesday screenings. Save money and support your local cinema? What’s not to love?

7. Get to a ‘Pay What You Can’ screening at the Barbican

In these cash-strapped times, it’s great that the Barbican offers ‘Pay What You Can’ screenings every Friday, where one of their new releases is available at a ticket price of £3-15 depending on what you can afford. (Paying the higher price helps them to keep the discount screenings going.)  

Prince Charles Cinema. Photograph: Rob Greig/Time Out

8. Join a cult (cinema)

Blockbusters tend to come with blockbuster pricing, so keep an eye out for London’s array of classic film clubs and cult pop-ups. Charles may no longer be a prince, but the king of midnight movies, all-nighter marathons and cult delights remains The Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square. Tickets start at a bargainsome £1 for members, so the £15 annual membership (£12.50 for students, seniors etc.) will pay for itself after just a few visits.

9. Look out for OAP and NHS discounts

Most cinemas offer cheaper tickets for seniors, such as Picturehouse’s Silver Screen Club, which has discounted tickets and free tea, coffee and biccies. Wednesday mornings at the Walthamstow Empire cost just £3.75 with tea, coffee and a biscuit. If you’re young – or have access to convincing de-ageing technology – cinemas usually offer a student discount too.

NHS staff get 10 percent off at Rich Mix, an offer worth applauding (and, if other cinemas are reading this, matching!)

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From ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ to ‘Withnail & I’: the best London movies.

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