Hello! Gwilym’s away, so I’ll be guiding you through the best new pop culture, cult classics and reader recommendations this week.
Before that: going to the cinema is, for many, a beloved pastime, but – like so many other things these days – also liable to put a dent in your bank balance. Last week we told you about the streaming services worth paying for, and this week we’re filling you in on six ways to watch films cheaply or – even better – for free.
Become a paid-up member
Cinema memberships might sound expensive – Odeon’s, for example, is £179.88 a year (£14.99 a month), and £203.88 (£16.99) if you want access to London’s West End screens. However, if you go every week for a whole year, that’s a mere £3.92 a ticket. Without the West End, that cost goes down to £3.46. And if you can stump up 12 months upfront for £119.00, that takes it down further to £2.29 per weekly visit.
Yes, that’s a lot of trips to the cinema, but if you’re sure you’ll stick with the same chain it could be worth it. And it will also give you 10% off food and drink, for those of you with a popcorn habit.
Play the Meerkat
If you’ve owned a TV at any point in the last decade, you’ve probably heard of Compare the Market, and by extension its Meerkat Movies two-for-one ticket offer, the spiritual successor to the Orange Wednesdays texts of old. Shout out to Martin Lewis and gang for their tip on how to get the deal for just £1. It can also be combined with certain cinema memberships, such as Cineworld’s Unlimited pass.
Up market savings
If you’re a fan of a plush arthouse cinema with reclining seats (you’re reading the Guardian so … maybe?) then you might have considered joining the likes of Everyman or Curzon. Everyman’s basic membership is £95 a year and includes seven free tickets which – depending on where you live – could be almost equivalent to what you’d have paid anyway, and it offers discounts on food and allows you to bring a friend for free on a Monday. If you shared the cost with a friend upfront and then brought them as your +1 each week, you’d both make some pretty big savings while also spending some lovely quality time together … in silence, in a dark room.
The £600 (gulp) Everywhere membership might sound like too big a commitment, but includes unlimited film for two for a year. A ticket for David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future at Everyman’s Screen on the Green in London today costs £12.95, but if you had already forked out for that tasty dual membership and were using it each week it would be just £6.25. Similarly, Curzon’s Cult membership has a hefty £285 price tag but, if used weekly, would bring tickets down to £4.75. Even if you only went twice a month you’re likely to save too, but it’s worth checking out your local cinema prices – there’s a £2.50 price difference between showings of See How They Run in Ripon, Yorkshire, and Hoxton, London, for example.
Streaming site Mubi offers a stonker of a deal: £14.99 a month for its ever-changing arthouse catalogue to enjoy at home, and a free cinema ticket each week to a carefully selected film to get you out of the house. Sure, some releases are obscure, but there are often big name ones, too, like Nope (above) and Elvis. Be warned: you’ll probably have to live in or near a big city to get these deals, but if you can they’re a bargain. Your local independent cinema (shout out to mine – Rich Mix in London’s Bethnal Green!) may also have its own membership, and is likely to include invitations to events and local business discounts.
Our fifth tip – and no, it’s not “move to Ripon”, though I hear it’s lovely – is to sign up for research screenings. They are a great way to see films before they’re released, in exchange for your honest thoughts. You’ll probably have to sign an NDA so you can’t go spilling all of your thoughts on Twitter, and you’re not eligible if you work in the media or film industry, but if you’re good at keeping secrets then sites like ShowFilmFirst might be for you. Similarly, events like Screen Unseen from Odeon offer previews of hotly tipped films for just £6, as long as you’re OK with not knowing which film’s on offer until you get to the cinema.
And if all else fails …
If you’re well and truly committed to the free film lifestyle, then YouTube has an extensive catalogue of works that are now in the public domain, from Night of the Living Dead to the original 1937 version of A Star Is Born. If you happen to be in the US, YouTube has an entire free to watch section, including Legally Blonde and the Nic Cage/Angelina Jolie heist flick Gone in 60 Seconds, both ideal for a trip back in time to the early 00s.