One of the common gripes from cinema-goers is the increasing cost. So this week I’m taking a look at the average cinema ticket price in the UK. Next week it’ll be the price of cinema popcorn and the week after that we’ll be hearing from cinema’s frontline staff.
According to the UK Cinema Association and the BFI, the average UK cinema ticket in 2014 cost £6.72. I’ll pause while you clean up the tea you’ve just spat out over your keyboard. I think UK film fans will have a much higher figure in mind. As far as I can tell, this figure has been reached by dividing the UK-only box office gross by the number of UK cinema admissions. In 2013, the UK-only box office gross was £1.083bn and UK cinema admissions reached 165.5m, which gives you £6.54… the official figure for in 2013.
This method is easy to perform and understand but doesn’t actually reflect the realities of cinema-going in the UK. It factors in discounts given to students, seniors, children, club members and those using offers such as EE Wednesdays and Meerkat Movies (both of which offer 2 for 1 cinema tickets). It’s like looking at a family where both parents earn £20k, and factoring in their three kids to declare an “average family wage” of £8k.
So I decided to take a look at the prices of cinema tickets on sale at UK cinemas, gathering data on cinema ticket prices at 340 sites (110 Odeon, 84 Cineworlds, 77 Vue cinemas, 22 Picturehouse, 20 Showcase, 17 Empire cinemas and 10 Curzon cinemas). In summary…
- The average UK adult 2D ‘standard’ cinema ticket is on sale for £9.84 at peak times and £8.40 off-peak.
- This is £1.68 more than the most recent “official” figure when compared to off-peak tickets and £3.12 more when looking at peak tickets.
- London peak cinema tickets are 26% more expensive than at cinema sites outside of London.
- A premium seat to watch live opera on screen at the BFI IMAX costs £37.50 per person
- Peaktime adult tickets for a 3D movie in the stalls of the Odeon Leicester Square costs £20.50 each
- An off-peak 2D movie at Cineworld’s Weymouth is £5.30
- Odeon is charging £2.00 more to see the new Bond film Spectre than it does for a standard movie
- Vue cinemas have four price bands, and additional charges for 3D and IMAX movies
- Showcase and Reel are the only UK cinema chains which offer a discount for military personnel, charging the same price as seniors and children
- Childrens’ tickets cost an average of 73% of the adult ticket at peak times, and 77% of the adult price at off-peak screenings.
- The most expensive “Over 60’s” ticket at an Odeon costs £22.00, and the cheapest is just £4.25
Cinemas charge more for blockbusters and 3D movies
Cinema ticket pricing used to be far simpler – 15 years ago the Cineworld in Ashford offered 5 price options, whereas the same cinema today offers at least 224 variations of ticket price (taking into account seven types of ticket, peak and off-peak screenings, differing weekend / weekday prices, different costs for online and in-cinema purchases and extra charges for 3D films).
Most recently, there have been calls in the industry for lower ticket prices to see UK films, which often lack the cinematic power of Hollywood’s blockbusters. Though British films don’t yet seem to have been discounted, UK cinemas are already charging higher prices for blockbusters and 3D movies. Customers watching blockbusters pay a sur-charge, as do those wanting to see 3D movies, IMAX and/ or a more luxurious cinema-going experience eg. plush seats.
In UK cinemas, the average adult 2D ‘standard’ cinema ticket is on sale for £9.84 at peak times and £8.40 off-peak. This is £1.68 more than the most recent “official” figure when compared to off-peak tickets and £3.12 more when looking at peak tickets.
Note: The above chart refers to the average ticket price by chain for an adult cinema ticket to see a 2D movie newly on general release purchased over the counter in the cinema in October 2015. It does not factor in extra charges for nicer seats/screens, IMAX, 3D, booking fees, etc, nor does it include discounts for joining online clubs, paid memberships or group discounts.
Expensive trips to the cinema
The most expensive single seat I found on my journeys through cinema pricing was for watching opera live at the BFI IMAX (which is run by Odeon on behalf of the BFI) where a premium seat will set you back a whopping £37.70 per person (plus booking fee).
The BFI IMAX also occasionally run all-night screenings of film series (such as Batman or Lord of The Rings) and they cost £32 for standard seating and £35 for premium.
A peaktime adult ticket to see a 3D movie sitting in the stalls of the Odeon Leicester Square will cost you £20.50 per person (standard peak stall price of £17.50, plus £2.00 extra as it’s a 3D movie and £1 for the 3D glasses).
Cheapest cinema tickets
The cheapest adult tickets I found for an off-peak 2D movie is at Cineworld’s Weymouth site, at £5.30 when bought in the cinema. The same type of ticket is on sale at the Odeon West Bromwich for £5.50 and Vue’s cheapest price is £5.99 at the Vue Doncaster.
Most cinema chains run discount schemes, such as Vue’s Super Tuesdays when tickets can cost the price of an off-peak child’s ticket. In addition, there are external offers such as Meerkat Movies which offers 2 for 1 cinema tickets when you buy car insurance through comparethemarket.com (you read that in the voice of that stupid meerkat, didn’t you?)
The average cost of a cinema ticket at Odeon cinemas
The average Odeon peak adult cinema ticket to see a 2D movie costs £9.04, although in many cases extra charges apply. Off-peak it is £8.00.
Odeon charges an extra £1 to £2 per adult ticket if the film is in 3D, plus a £1 charge for the 3D glasses (although they are reusable). If the movie is 2D but classified as a “blockbuster” then they charge between £1 and £1.50 above the standard adult price, such as for The Martian or The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. The new Bond film Spectre is already billed as costing £2 more than the standard ticket price.
There are no extra booking fees at Odeon, as they don’t take bookings on the phone and don’t charge extra fees for tickets bought online or in cinemas.
The average cost of a cinema ticket at Vue cinemas
Vue cinemas go one stage further and charge four different prices in many of their cinemas, depending on the film. This week’s movies on release break down as follows…
- Band 1 – Average adult peak price £9.11. Films include Hitman: Agent 47, Irrational Man, and Straight Outta Compton
- Band 2 – Average adult peak price £9.47. Films include Legend, Macbeth and The Intern
- Band 3 – Average adult peak price £9.92. Films include Everest and Hotel Transylvania 2
- Band 4 – Average adult peak price £10.55. Films include Sicario, The Martian and The Walk
They also have additional costs at some of their cinemas, including…
- VIP seats, for an additional charge of between £1.30 and £2.00 per ticket
- Luxury seats, for £5.00 extra
- IMAX screens, for an additional charge of between £4.70 and £5.00 per ticket
- 3D films cost between £1.60 and £3.20 more, plus £1.00 for the 3D glasses
- VueExtreme (for cinema screens “twice the size of a double decker bus”) costing between £1.00 and £2.50 extra
- Gold Class (“Luxury seats, with an exclusive bar area, 18+”) costing around 40% more than a standard adult price
- Scene (“cinema for pleasure seekers”) which includes a bar, concierge and cloakroom service. It costs an extra £7.50 per ticket, so if you ever visit the Vue Scene in Westfield I can only suggest you get your money’s worth by taking a coat and asking the concierge what West End shows are worth catching.
Finally there’s the booking fee of £0.75 per ticket bought online (no fee for tickets bought in cinemas). When confronted by an angry customer on Facebook, Vue responded that their booking fees are “used to implement the extra security measures needed to ensure your card details are as safe as possible when you’re booking online with us“. Oh, and their phone booking line costs 13p per minute.
The average cost of a cinema ticket at Cineworld cinemas
Cineworld have possibly the most confusing pricing system of the bunch. To predict how much a ticket will cost at a Cineworld cinema you need too…
- Navigate to the appropriate cinema page (such as www1.cineworld.co.uk/cinemas/london-west-india-quay#prices)
- Pick the day of the week
- Decide if it’s a peak or off-peak screening on that day
- Decide if you’re going to be “logged in” or buy them in the cinema
- Pick your ticket type (adult, child, etc)
- Click on the “Additional Charges” link under the pricing table
- Download and open the PDF
- Establish if your movie is 3D and if you wish to have “Star seating” – Add the relevant charge (which differs again if you’re buying in the cinema or via the “MyCineworld Price”)
- Add £1.00 for the 3D glasses, if applicable
- Add a 60p booking fee per ticket
Obviously this maths is all done for you if you click through to actually buy a ticket but it I doubt many supermarkets would be in business if the easiest way of predicting the cost of your shop was to wait in line at the checkout. The confusing nature of cinema pricing must surely play a role in why so many cinema-goers are shocked at the final cost.
A peak adult ticket for a weekend Cineworld screening costs an average of £9.73 when bought online, and £10.14 when bought in the cinema. On the face of it they are the only major UK cinema chain which charges less for tickets bought online than in their cinemas, although it only applies if you sign up to their free online scheme, presumably as part of a push to capture valuable consumer data. However, tickets bought online incur a £0.60 booking fee, bringing the average up to £10.33, higher than the cinema price by £0.19.
In 2012, Cineworld were very proud to be “the first cinema chain to remove fees for booking tickets online”, only to reinstate the fees for telephone and online bookings two years later. It currently costs £0.60 per ticket bought online or on the phone, although if you are not keen on paying it Cineworld do offer some helpful advice “If you do not wish to pay this fee you can purchase your tickets in person at the cinema”.
The average cost of a cinema ticket at Picturehouse cinemas
Picturehouse cinemas are owned and run by Cineworld so you can imagine my surprise when I found that their prices were clear and easy to understand! Their average peak adult ticket price was £10.49 and off-peak it’s £9.01.
Members get a discount so the same peak adult ticket would cost an average of £8.21, a saving of £2.28 per ticket. Annual membership for the London screens costs £55 a year, so you’d have to visit twice a month to make the savings outweigh the cost. That said, membership is far more than just a discount – members also get free tickets, discounts on concessions, exclusive events and the smug satisfaction that you’re in a middle-class club that’s more fashionable than the National Trust.
Picturehouse charge £1.30 extra for 3D movies and just £0.70 for 3D glasses, both of which represent the lowest extra 3D charges of the chains I looked at. That said, their online booking fee of £1.50 is the highest of the bunch.
The average cost of a cinema ticket at Showcase cinemas
Most London-based cinema-goers may not have heard of Showcase as they don’t have any London sites, however they are the UK’s fourth biggest chain, taking in almost 6% of the UK box office (2013).
The average adult peak-time ticket at a Showcase cinema is £9.18 and £7.59 off-peak. As far as I can tell, Showcase and Reel are the only UK cinema chains which offer discounts for military personnel, charging them the same price as seniors and children.
Showcase cinemas have the highest charge for 3D glasses, at £1.50 each, and also charge an additional £2.00 for 3D movies.
The average cost of a cinema ticket at Empire cinemas
The average adult peak-time ticket at an Empire cinema is just £8.77, although this might be a product of the fact that all but one of their sites is out of London. A peak adult ticket in the IMAX screen at the Empire Leicester Square is £19.95.
At the Empire Basildon you can pay £7.50 to sit on a beanbag or £9.95 for a Luxury Seat. 3D movies cost between £1.50 and £2.00 more than a 2D movie and their 3D glasses are the industry standard £1.00 each. Empire have one of the lowest booking fees, at just £0.70 per ticket.
The average cost of a cinema ticket at Curzon cinemas
The average adult cinema ticket at the Curzon chain is £12.73 peak time, and £8.48 off-peak. This makes Curzon the most expensive, but then again they have the highest ratio of London to non-London sites of all the chains I looked at.
Members (annual cost £55 in London, and £45 rest of UK) receive a discount, taking their average ticket prices to £10.53 and £7.48 respectively.
Their booking fee is £1.00 for online transactions and £2.00 for phone bookings, however members don’t pay either.
Childrens’ cinema tickets and kids club
Childrens’ tickets cost an average of 73% of the adult ticket at peak times, and 77% of the adult price at off-peak screenings.
I have fond memories of the madness of kid’s cinema screenings on weekend mornings and the friends I made there, so I was pleased to discover that they are still alive and well (not the friends – they’re old and cynical – I mean the kids clubs).
Every Vue cinema offers a kids club, priced at £1.99 for a 2D movie and £2.79 for a 3D movie.
All but three Odeon sites have prices for a kids club; the holdouts being the BFI IMAX, London Leicester Square and Whiteleys – The Lounge (which is entirely for over 18s). In 92% of Odeon sites it costs £2.50 but in Belfast, Bristol and Dundee it’s £1.50 and in Dorchester and Worcester it’s just £1. That’s the same price I remember paying as a kid two decades ago.
Cineworld have ‘Movies For Juniors‘, costing £1.75 for 2D movies and £3.25 for 3D.
Most cinemas offer a “Family” ticket. Empire, Vue and Odeon’s family ticket are for 1 adult & 3 children or 2 adults & 2 children and are priced so that everyone is effectively paying the child ticket price. Picturehouse and Cineworld’s family price tickets are slightly more than four children’s ticket, but not by much.
Discounts for teenagers and students
In addition to their discounts for children, Odeon and Vue both offer different pricing for teenagers (i.e. 13 to 17 year olds, inclusive). Odeon’s average teen price is £6.96 at peak times and £6.49 off-peak. Vue charges teenagers an average of £8.67 at peak times and £7.56 off-peak.
All cinemas provide a student discount, with Empire cinemas offering the biggest monetary discount between the cost of a peak adult ticket and a peak student ticket, a reduction of £2.41 (which means that a student ticket costs an average 28% less than adult price).
Note: The chart above refers to the difference between the average peak-time adult ticket and average peak-time student ticket, where the saving is expressed as a percentage of the adult price. It does not factor in extra charges for nicer seats/screens, booking fees, etc nor does it include discounts for joining online clubs or paid memberships.
Note: The chart above refers to the highest and lowest priced tickets aimed at cinemagoers who are full-time students with valid student IDs, for a 2D movie on general release. It does not factor in extra charges for nicer seats/screens, booking fees, etc nor does it include discounts for joining online clubs or paid memberships.
Discounts and events for older people
All chains offer discounts for customers over 60 years old. Interestingly, most chains define “senior” as those aged over 60 years old but the Picturehouse chain adds the requirement that the patrons must also be retired.
Odeon’s off-peak senior price is an average of £6.66 and during peak times it rises to £7.17. The most expensive trip to an Odeon using the senior discount is during peak time at the Odeon Whiteleys, where each ticket would set you back £22.00. The cheapest standard senior ticket is an off-peak ticket at the Odeon Belfast, which is just £4.25 (a fifth of the peak Whiteley’s price).
Cineworld senior tickets cost an average of £7.54 during peak times and £6.63 off-peak.
Because of the banding system for ticket prices at Vue cinemas, senior tickets range from an average of £5.73 for the cheapest movies off-peak up to £9.59 for the biggest 3D movies during peak-times (average of £8.20 plus £1.39 3D charge).
Note: The chart above refers to the highest and lowest priced tickets aimed at cinemagoers over 60 years old, for a 2D movie on general release (i.e. not a screening specifically for older viewers). It does not factor in extra charges for nicer seats/screens, booking fees, etc nor does it include discounts for joining online clubs or paid memberships.
All the major chains offer special screenings for the over 60s, which feature heavily discounted tickets, free tea and biscuits.
Odeon’s Silver Cinema runs in 65% of their sites, and has the widest range of ticket prices for such events. Most charge £3.00, although the Odeon Dorchester charges only £1.00.
Vue have “Senior Screenings” with three quarters of sites charging £3.29 and the rest charging £3.79. Tickets at Picturehouse’s “Silver Screen Club” are £5 each.
Location, location, location
I don’t have exact location details for every site so I can’t provide a breakdown of average prices per region. However, I was able to determine which sites were in London and can therefore show the big price disparity.
London cinema tickets are on average 26% more expensive for peak-time screenings and 21% higher for off-peak performances, compared to cinema sites outside of London.
Data and methodology
For today’s research I studied 340 cinema, which represent 45% of the total number of cinema sites in the UK. However, as the UK cinema business is heavily dominated by a small number of chains (Odeon, Vue, Cineworld, Showcase and Empire collected 81% of the UK box office in 2013), I feel I have enough data to discuss the experience the average UK cinema-goer faces when buying a ticket.
Sadly time doesn’t allow for personal visits to each cinema site throughout the UK so I am reliant on the information from each cinema chain’s website. Therefore, some sites could be quoting prices for events they never hold and other sites could have forgotten to list the prices for events they do run. I’m happy to amend these stats if any of the chains wish to provide updated information.
In calculating the “average ticket price” I took the ticket price at each cinema site, as advertised on the chain’s website, and divided it by the number of sites offering that ticket type. For example, to calculate the average price of an off-peak senior ticket at Odeon cinemas I took the cost of buying one senior off-peak ticket at each of the 95 Odeon sites advertising that ticket type (£632.80) and divided it by 95 (to reach £6.66). This means it doesn’t take into account the number of screens, the number of tickets on sale or the number of tickets actually sold. I’d love to be able to do this but the industry doesn’t publicly release the data I would need. This means that my data today relates to the average price of tickets offered, not the average price actually paid by cinema goers.
This was much more intricate than I thought it would be when I started out. I don’t think it’s in the best interests of consumers for cinemas to offer such opaque pricing systems: I was surprised by the level of complexity. Nonetheless, it’s been really interesting to look closer at the topic and to debunk the idea that the average cinema ticket is around £6.50.