MoneySavingExpert.com cinema ticket deals

Cinema MoneySaving tips & tricks

Including year's 2for1 movies for £2ish, two Vue tickets for £7, and can you take your own food?

Many would say 2020 has been like a disaster movie come to life. The coronavirus pandemic closed cinemas in March but over July and August, they've been reopening in phases.

So while our guide of cinema tips and tricks has been Frozen these past few months, it's time to Thor it out to help you save at the cinema almost as many times as James Bond has saved the world.

MSE Update, Thu 8 Oct: Cineworld has closed its UK cinemas temporarily. See our Cineworld MSE news story for full info.

 

Check our Life in Lockdown guide for more info on how the coronavirus pandemic has affected memberships, events and more.

A deal for every day of the week

We're going to talk about our picks of the best cinema deals so you can save on seeing big movies out now such as Tenet, and upcoming releases such as Wonder Woman 1984 and Daniel Craig's last outing as Bond in No Time to Die.

The first thing we want to do is make it easy to find the best deal for you, whether you can only visit the cinema on a certain day, or you just want to know when you can use a particular deal.

As you'll see from the table below, there's at least one deal available every day of the week. Select an offer for full info, how to get it, and any exclusions. We haven't included all deals in the table, such as £5 tickets for classic films, as the availability is dependent on your local cinema.

YEAR's 2for1 cinema tickets for £2ish – including new releases

Meerkat Movies* has been highly publicised by an enterprising Russian meerkat and his pal Sergei for a few years now. Buy certain insurance, switch utilities, or successfully apply for a financial product through comparison site Compare The Market*, and you'll get 2for1 cinema tickets on a Tuesday or Wednesday for a whole year.

2for1 cinema tickets should never be your reason for choosing a product such as insurance – use other comparison sites and our insurance guides to check you're getting the best deal. However, if Compare The Market isn't cheapest/best for what you need, we've a trick so you can still get the 2for1 movies...

What's the cheapest product you can buy to qualify for Meerkat Movies?

The answer is one night’s UK travel insurance for one person. If the insurance is dead cheap, you can get a one-day policy for when you're not actually travelling/needing it, just so you'll be eligible for the 2for1 deal.

When we did a quick search on Compare The Market* on Tue 1 Sep, we found the cheapest single-trip travel insurance policy was £2.40 (the cheapest we've ever seen it is £1.01, but we've not managed to get it that cheap since the coronavirus pandemic).

At this price, the insurance is far cheaper than the cost of a second cinema ticket, so in most cases you'll save even if you use it just once. What's more, you'll also be given Meerkat Meals, which gets 2for1 starters, mains and desserts at many big chain and independent restaurants from Sunday to Thursday.

Search Compare The Market* for a single-trip travel insurance policy in the UK for one person.
Buy the cheapest policy – when we checked on Tue 1 Sep, it was £2.40
Download the Meerkat app for Android or iOS and activate your membership.

Meerkat Movies is valid at most cinemas across the UK – the big chains (eg, Odeon and Vue) as well as lots of independents – but not all of them. If in doubt, check with your local cinema before turning up. Unlike some cinema offers, you can use it on the latest blockbusters.

    • To qualify for Meerkat Movies & Meals membership, you need to purchase one of the following through Compare The Market: Car, motorcycle, home, van, pet, landlord, life, home/content or travel insurance. You can also qualify by taking out a credit card or loan or switch energy, digital TV or broadband supplier.
    • Activation can take at least 48 hours, so you may not be able to use the 2for1 offer on the same day you activate Meerkat Movies.
    • The year's 2for1 membership begins from the date you made a purchase. If you make any additional purchases during the 12 months, it'll extend your membership from the date of your most recent purchase.

    For more info on what you get and how to use this offer, see Meerkat Movies & Meals 2for1 cinema and restaurants.

It's back. TWO Vue tickets for £7 to any 2D movie on any day for some Vodafone and all Voxi customers

Vodafone mobile customers can get two adult tickets for £7 (£3.50 each) at most Vue cinemas to see any 2D movie each week through the My Vodafone app. This popular offer was stopped in March when cinemas closed but it's now back, and Vodafone has confirmed it's ongoing.

The same offer is also available if you've Voxi (Vodafone's youth-orientated mobile brand) until Fri 25 Sep.

Who's eligible & how to redeem the offer

  • You'll need to have a Vodafone pay monthly or small business contract, or if you're a pay-as-you-go customer you'll need to have topped up £10 or more in the last 60 days.

    How to get the deal

    You can claim this deal at the cinema box office or online.

    • Download or sign into the free My Vodafone App.
    • Select the 'VeryMe' button to access a list of available offers and choose the Vue deal.
    • Visit the Vue link within the deal and you'll be able to claim a promo code for two tickets for £7.
    • You'll be emailed two e-codes which you can exchange at the box office or online (but not over the phone).

    The offer refreshes each week at 00.01am on Mondays, so if you've had a code before, that's when you can pick up a new code to go again.

  • Any customer with an active Voxi account (in other words your bill is up-to-date) can get this deal.

    How to get the deal

    • Log in to Voxi and go to the 'My Account' section – you'll find the offer in 'Voxi Drop'
    • Visit the Vue link within the deal and you'll be able to claim a promo code for two tickets for £7.
    • You'll be emailed two e-codes which you can exchange at the box office or online (but not over the phone).

    Your codes will be valid until 11.59pm on Fri 25 Sep.

What's particularly good about this deal, is it can be used to see any 2D movie, on any day of the week, including weekends when discounts are rare. However, depending on the price of tickets at your local Vue, you may be able to get a better deal on a Tuesday or Wednesday using Meerkat Movies.

  • The deal can't be used on the following types of screening: Premieres, Big Screen Events and alternative/special showings including Mini Mornings, Senior-friendly, Autism-friendly and Scene screenings.

    You'll only be able to get two tickets for £7 on 2D screenings, though you can book a 3D screening, IMAX, VIP, Recliner, Xtreme seating or Gold class screening online or at the box office if you pay the difference in price.

    You can use this deal at all Vue cinemas except for Vue West End in Leicester Square, London.

£5 remastered classic films & early-2020 releases – can you find 'em?

With the global pandemic leading to numerous big movie releases set for 2020 getting postponed till later in the year, or to 2021, many cinemas have brought back classic film favourites that have long been chewed up by your VHS player, or early-2020 releases, for a cheaper price than normal.

We've seen £5 movies at Odeon, Showcase and Vue, though other cinemas may be offering them as well. The selection of movies on offer will depend on your local cinema.

For example, we checked Odeon in Brighton, and it was offering £5 tickets to see Jurassic Park (1993) and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – tickets for new releases are normally up to £12.

Showcase £7.30 tickets (norm up to £12ish) on Sunday-Tuesday with free membership

If you've a Showcase cinema near you (there are 20 across the UK – see all locations), then you can get tickets to see new releases for £7.30 (normally up to £12ish) from 7pm on Sunday, and all day Monday and Tuesday.

To get the deal, all you need to do is sign up for free to Showcase's 'Insider' membership. You'll be sent a membership card by post but you can print off a temporary card to use before it arrives, or use it immediately online by logging into your account.

You can book the cheap tickets by showing your card at the box office, or online by logging into your account and selecting the 'Insider' ticket option (there's a 60p booking fee).

Check deals at your local independent cinema

We've focused a lot so far on the big chains, but you may have an independent cinema near you that offers cheaper tickets. They usually have fewer screens and you sometimes have to wait a couple of weeks to see the bigger releases, but some prefer the more intimate setting.

We asked MoneySavers on Twitter for their thoughts on independent cinemas and which ones they'd visited – many said they're able to get tickets for under £5. Click the tweet below to read the comments or add your own.

Free or cheap preview screenings

If you'd like to get your beady eyes on a movie before it's released to the masses, there's a much better solution than streaming some dodgy illegal copy filmed on a camcorder. There are free 'clubs' that you can join, and get free or cheap tickets for special preview screenings of upcoming releases.

Odeon Screen Unseen

If you're someone who doesn't mind surprises, you can catch preview screenings of upcoming movies for £5 if booked at the cinema, or £5.75 online at Odeon. The catch is, you won't know which movie you're going to see until it starts, but Odeon says it'll always have a rating from 'U' to '15' and won't be a horror movie – they're reserved for its separate Scream Unseen.

The most recent Screen Unseen movies (pre-lockdown) have included Just Mercy, ParasiteLe Mans '66Extra Ordinary, and Booksmart – so based on this, you probably shouldn't expect a blockbuster of the magnitude of Avengers, but if you're someone who likes to go see movies in general, this can be a good and fun way to get your hands on a cheap ticket.

Register at Odeon Screen Unseen and you'll be emailed when a movie is available to book.

ShowFilmFirst

This one isn't quite so straight-forward, but it can give you the chance to see preview screenings for 'free' (there's usually a £2ish admin fee), in order to generate word of mouth and get feedback before a film opens to the public.

You'll need to register at ShowFilmFirst and you'll be offered tickets depending on your genre preferences, your demographic and your location – though you'll have to be fast as they get snapped up quickly.

A big rule with this one, is that if you go to a preview screening, you have to keep schtum about where you got your tickets from, and you're required to give feedback on the movie after you've seen it.

  • You'll hear from ShowFilmFirst within 30 days if your registration is successful. However, unsurprisingly, this is popular and it isn't accepting new membership in some locations – meaning you'll be added to a waiting list until space becomes available.

Free preview screenings for 16-25 year olds

Anyone aged 16 to 25 can get tickets to free preview screenings (usually once or twice a month) at Picturehouse and selected Cineworld cinemas through E4 Big Screen Previews (previously known as E4 Slackers Club and was only for students prior to March 2020).

You'll need to register online at Picturehouse with your date of birth. When there's a screening, you'll then be able to book tickets at the box office, or online at Picturehouse/Cineworld – ID checks will take place at the cinema to verify your age.

Previous free screenings have included MisbehaviourGood BoysStuber, Late Night, and Booksmart.

  • Cineworld Birmingham Broadstreet, Nottingham, Cardiff, Sheffield, Glasgow Renfrew Street, Newcastle, Bristol, Plymouth, Wolverhampton, and Leeds.

Do you need to go to the cinema? Streaming services have big movies including some released at the same time as cinemas 

With the proliferation of video streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and Now TV over the past few years, there is less need to venture to the cinema to get your film fix – and with packages for the big services mentioned costing less than £12 a month, you can watch a lot more movies for your money at home – see our TV MoneySaving tricks.

Of course, watching a movie from your living room sofa is a different experience to the cinema, but if you're not so fussed about the night out element, or giant screen, then streaming services can be a good alternative to forking out for a cinema ticket, especially if you're paying for one or more of them anyway.

While the majority of big studio blockbusters will get their first showing at the cinema, there's been a trend in recent years of some movies being released on streaming services at the same time as their cinema release. For example, Hotel Mumbai premiered on Sky Cinema, Now TV and in cinemas on the same date in September 2019, and the 2018 Oscar-winning movie ROMA streamed on Netflix at the same time it was in cinemas.

Some movies don't even make it to the cinema at all – Netflix for example, produces its own original movies – see our Netflix hacks for how to cut the cost and get more from your subscription. Disney+ also has a trend of skipping the cinema and offering movies exclusively on the streaming service such as the live-action Lady and the Tramp and Hamilton – see how to get Disney+ for £3.99 a month (normally £5.99) if you're an O2 customer.

Bring your own snacks – you don't need to sneak them in to the big chains 

It's no surprise to anyone that snacks and drinks bought at the cinema often have a high mark-up. Although that waft of popcorn when you enter the cinema lobby can easily tempt many, you'll be paying a lot more than if you brought your own snacks – though it's long been thought that cinemas don't allow this, so MoneySavers have been sneaking snacks into their bags, pockets and socks (maybe?) for years.

However... Cineworld, Odeon, Vue, Empire and Showcase all told us its policy is that you can bring your own drink (as long as it's non-alcoholic and not in a glass container) and food, as long as it's not hot nor has an overly strong odour – so you shouldn't be whipping out a cheeseboard or egg sandwich, but chocolates or sweets, or a bit of fruit are fine – just be mindful of loud crunching.

While the big cinema chains we asked shared the same policy, it may not be universal at all cinema brands or independents.

Don't waste money on a bad film – read user reviews

There's nothing worse than sitting through a terrible movie for two hours, especially when you've paid to watch it. Save yourself (and your money) from any modern day equivalent of Jaws: The Revenge by checking out reviews from other cinema-goers first.

The two most popular free movie review sites are IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. You can get a quick glance at a movie's overall user rating, read reviews from the public, or see what critics thought. Don't worry about spoilers, reviews that include those are clearly marked.

You must wear a face covering in cinemas in England & Scotland – we've tips on making your own

Wearing a face covering in cinemas is now mandatory in England and Scotland, though you are allowed to remove your face covering to eat or drink inside the screening.

If you're keen to have a go at making your own, MSE Rhiannon shows you how you can make face masks, plus ideas for what to do with any leftover fabric scraps.

Check daily deals sites

Daily deals sites such as Groupon and Wowcher sometimes offer cheap bulk tickets for the big cinema chains.

For example, in the last year we saw a Wowcher deal for five Vue tickets for £20 and a Groupon deal for five Odeon tickets for £25.

If similar deals like these pop up again, be sure to carefully check exclusions. Also before buying, compare the price with your local cinema as ticket prices vary massively throughout the UK and you might find your local cinema normally charges the same, or less, per ticket than the daily deals site offer.

Having a bad cinema experience? When can you get compensation?

Sometimes the cinema experience isn't as enjoyable or comfortable as you'd hope, and many don't think to complain or ask for a refund if things go wrong. Most cinemas will refund your ticket if there was a technical glitch that was the cinema's fault, eg, the projector breaks or the sound is out of sync.

But we've also heard from MoneySavers on Facebook (see some of the comments below) who have complained about annoyances such other cinema-goers being loud and distracting, or the cinema being too cold, and have received refunds or free tickets for a future visit. So if you've had a bad cinema experience, it's worth raising this with staff.

Walked out half way through because of rowdy kids and got our money back.

– Lianne S.

Had compensation from cinema after the film ended for being so COLD 🥶

– Jo-ann

We asked for a refund at the end of the film as we were watching a quiet film and next door was a film with screaming and loud explosion effects drowning out our sound. The manager issued full refunds on both tickets.

– Paul C.

I once went to see Star Wars at our local Odeon but they started to show Coco instead! They stopped it after about 10 minutes (I was actually quite enjoying it!), refunded us and gave us upgrades to the posh screen for when we came back.

– Claire M.

As for whether you can walk out of a movie because you're not enjoying it and receive a refund, the big cinema chains we asked went quiet on us – probably because they don't want mass walkouts if there's ever an Emoji Movie 2 😒.

In general, you're unlikely to be given compensation just because you think a movie's rubbish, yet we did hear from a few users who received complimentary tickets for a future visit, so it may be worth asking, though this very much seems down to the cinema manager's discretion.

What are your top tips for saving at the cinema? Let us know in the comments below, or on Twitter @MSE_Deals.