With a small mortgage generally being the order of the day whenever you want to catch the latest movies at the cinema, the prospect of being able to see films ahead of release and for free is incredibly appealing. Believe it or not hundreds of people every month do exactly this and you can join them. Here we spill the secrets on how to watch films for free when you can (and to lower the cost whenever possible).
Free tickets are often given away to promote new films. Film distributors team up with cinemas to book out a cinema screen and then offer tickets to the general public. Not every film will get the preview treatment and not all cinemas will take part so you may have to be a little patient.
You’ll need to sign up to a range of websites to get hold of “screening codes” as soon as they are released. Try Show Film First, the Total Film Club, Paramount Previews and Disney Screenings. Students can get hold of tickets to free screenings at Picturehouse cinemas by joining the E4 Slackers Club via Facebook.
On receipt of a code you can enter it online to find details of preview screenings and register to receive tickets. If successful (as you’d expect tickets get snapped up quickly) you can print a paper ticket and turn up to your chosen screening (typically on a week day at around 6pm, or early morning at the weekend) to be granted admission for free.
Preview codes are often shared on deals forums online (though many screenings are restricted to invited guests of the above site). To this end, the Free Movies UK forum is worth registering for, as is MoneysavingExpert.com and Hot UK deals.
If you’re not successful at first, it’s worth regularly checking back and re-entering codes as new batches of tickets are released and ticket holders cancel screenings they cannot attend.
You may also find some newspapers, magazines and websites promoting their own screenings by printing codes that can be redeemed at one of the screening code websites.
Subscribe or collect codes from a newspaper
Subscribers to The Telegraph and The Sun are regularly offered the chance to book tickets to free preview screenings as a perk of membership to their Times+ and Sun Perks schemes.
Pick your day and time
Prime time films come at prime time prices. Choosing off-peak screenings (typically weekdays before 5pm) will typically work out much cheaper.
With most films coming out on Fridays (with a few exceptions) and people’s free-time generally coming at the weekend, quieter days during the week often cost must less to fill the seats.
Cineworld offers Bargain Tuesdays at some venues offering cheaper tickets (discounts vary) all day. Empire Cinemas also offer cheap tickets on a Tuesday from £4.50 each as part of its Sav£rday Tuesday deal. The offer excludes Bank Holidays, Impact, Luxury and VIP seating, opera, 3D and special presentations. The chain’s Leicester Square venue is also exempt from the offer. It also offers discounts on some films that are coming to the end of their run on Last Chance To See Thursdays.
Odeon offers Supersaver tickets Monday to Thursday before 5pm.
Vue has Super Tuesdays at most of its cinemas, which offers up to a third off all day on a Tuesday. You need to sign up to get the discount.
Be a kid or teen
Most major cinemas offer discounts for children at specific times.
Odeon screens discounted Kids movies at certain cinemas on Saturday and Sunday mornings and through the school summer holidays with tickets at £2.50. Check your local cinema listings for details. Adult tickets for 13 to 17-year-olds at Odeon cinemas also have money knocked off. Those buying family entry will also get all their tickets at child prices.
Certain Vue venues also offer 20% off adult tickets for teens aged 13-18 years old. While with a family ticket, everyone pays the child ticket price (four people, with a minimum of two children in a group).
If you’re a student, you’ll be able to get hold of discounted tickets at most cinemas. But make sure you have your ID to hand.
Most cinemas offer discounted tickets for older folk.
A couple of chains also run senior screenings and throw in a free hot drink and biscuit for you to enjoy while you watch the film.
Take a carer
If you are receiving Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance or are registered blind you can apply for a CEA card that allows a carer (parent, family member, worker etc.) to enter the cinema for free when you buy a full-price ticket.
Sign up for a subscription
If you’re a regular film go-er then it may be worth considering a cinema subscription card. Until fairly recently Cineworld was the only UK chain with such a card with its Unlimited scheme then ODEON parked a fairly substantial tank on the lawn with its Limitless Scheme.
Cineworld’s Unlimited card gets you access to as many movies as you like from £16.90 a month. This is a great deal if you watch several films each month and have a local Cineworld.
Odeon has also launched a new membership card, Odeon Limitless, which offers cinema goers the chance to see any film they want, as often as they want to in Odeon cinemas across the UK and Ireland. The launch of this new card offers film fans the opportunity to visit Odeon cinemas as many times as they like for a monthly fee of £17.99 in almost all cinemas, and a monthly fee of £19.99 for central London cinemas.
Membership of Picturehouse cinemas will give you four free tickets, up to £2 off tickets for a year, 10% off food and drink at the cinema, priority booking and a host of other discounts at restaurants and cafes such as Strada and GBK. The Picturehouse website has full details. A single membership costs between £15 and £55. Joint membership (two people at one address) costs between £90 and £95. What’s more, you’ll get three months free if you renew by direct debit.
Showcase has the Insider Club, which offers £6.50 (£8.50 for 3D films) tickets on Sundays after 7pm, and all day Mondays and Tuesdays. You’ll also get money off food and drink and the chance to win tickets to free preview screenings.
Vue regularly has offers for new releases. Go to its latest offers page for more information.
Get a loyalty card or app
The Odeon Premiere Club allows you to earn 10 points for every £1 you spend in the cinema. These points can then be spent on tickets, food or drink. There are also regular points offers and special members’ discounts. The club does cost to join, with membership options starting from £1.99, but you get some free points to start you off when you sign up. Head to the Odeon website for more details.
With the free Cinetreats app (available for Android) you can earn rewards called ‘stubs’ for doing simple tasks like doing a survey or downloading new apps firms want to try out.
The stubs can then be exchanged for free cinema tickets at your local theatre.
Use Nectar or Clubcard points
You can use Nectar points to save money on cinema tickets at Vue. With 5000 points you can get a £2.50 discount on the cost of your tickets.
Meanwhile Tesco Clubcard holders can use boost the value of their vouchers to save at certain cinemas. You can exchange £3.50 worth of vouchers for a child’s ticket or £4.50 worth of vouchers for an adult’s ticket at Odeon or Cineworld.
Use a cashback website
Daily deals sites
Check out daily deals sites like Groupon, which may feature discount offers on a handful of cinema tickets at a time.
Keep an eye out for local deals and offers at independent cinemas.