As a Dutch person I love my freebies and discounts and having lived in London for nearly 5 years now I've accumulated a wealth of knowledge on how to enjoy the capital's joys without bankrupting myself. So I thought I'd write this series of posts to help other Londoners, or visitors, to make the most of the city's art, culture and other fun things it has on offer.
This first post will provide tips on how to go to the cinema (an increasingly unaffordable expense) completely for free to see the latest films, most of the time even before their nationwide release!
These top tips aren't only valid for London, they can help you go to the cinema for free all around the UK, however, there are definitely more opportunities for special one-off events in the capital – such as red carpet premieres or previews with a cast and crew Q&A. At these special screenings you often get drinks and snacks as well (usually a bottle of water and popcorn or chocolates) so you can munch your way for free through the film too.
1. Showfilmfirst – This provider has teamed up with film distributors to put on preview screenings, from big blockbusters to indie films, to spread word of mouth before a film's release. Sometimes they have a media partner, such a Heat or Radio Times, in which case you can find all the details to booking tickets in the respective magazines. Other times you'll get an invite straight to your inbox based on your previous bookings, location and other preferences. Just make sure you're quick, as screenings often book out within minutes of a ticket release. If you do luck out, it's worth checking back in the days before the preview takes place as cancellations oftentimes go straight back into the pot.
2. Competitions – Without a doubt the best way to get access to special screenings and premieres is hunting down competitions for the film you want to see. Good sources for regular film giveaways are places such as Empire, OK! Magazine, The Evening Standard (mainly online), Glamour Magazine and Metro. Keep an eye on their Twitter accounts and dedicated competition pages on their websites to see what's coming up next. As an example, throughout the years I've been to the UK/European/World premieres for films such as Iron Man 3, Rock of Ages and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, and seen people such as George Clooney, Helen Mirren, Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock in the flesh.
3. Free Movies UK – This forum has a a group of dedicated contributors scouting the Internet for the latest Showfilmfirst codes, film competitions and much more. It's your essential resource to not miss out on any of the above, and you can even make film buddies in your area of London or local town in the process!
4. Telegraph, Times+, The Sun – If you have a subscription to any of these papers it's worth checking your membership for special privileges besides getting the paper conveniently delivered to your doorstep or mobile device. Each of the newspapers has its own way of rewarding customers and one of them is by offering tickers to advance screenings of the latest flicks.
5. Cinema vouchers – This one isn't a given and you shouldn't should set out to expect this freebie, but I have in the past been given gift vouchers at major cinema chains simply because I raised an issue that occurred during a screening I attended; from a film starting far too late to the picture and sound being out of sync. Like I said, don't expect to receive anything in return for your complaint but definitely make a point of raising the issue in person with the manager after the screening. At the very least you'll ensure they'll be aware of the issue and they can fix it for fellow patrons and your own future visits.
Bonus: Not free, but good ways to go to the cinema for less are: 2-4-1 tickets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays through Meerkat Movies, Sky's £3 Movie Mondays at the O2 in Greenwhich, and if you're a real movie fanatic you may be able to knock a few quid off your monthly cinema bill by getting a Cineworld Unlimited Card.
I hope these tips help! If you have your own advice to help others go to the cinema for less in the UK then do drop a line in the comments. And if you've used any of the above to see a movie, or two, for free I'd love it if you could let me know about your experience as well.
In future posts I'll cover (West End) theatre, cultural outings and much more! If there's anything in particular you'd like me to give you some tips on for discounts or freebies in London, just leave a comment below.