Big Unfriendly Giants? The sneaky extra cinema charges making tickets more expensive

Big Unfriendly Giants? The sneaky extra cinema charges making tickets more expensive

My recent trip to the cinema uncovered a new extra charge – and it’s easy to miss until you’re buying your ticket.

If you read my blog regularly, you’ll notice I often write about going to the cinema, and the costs of doing so. 

It can be incredibly expensive, especially in London, but also pretty cheap if you follow the tips and tricks I write about – and well worth it for the experience in my view.

But I’ve just discovered a checky extra charge being added by the big cinema chains Vue and Odeon that not only adds to the cost of a cinema visit, it makes it almost impossible to know how much your trip will cost.

You can now pay MORE depending on the film

I’ve just seen the BFG at my local Odeon – and this choice of movie cost me an extra 50p. It’s what Odeon calls “Blockbuster Prices”, a surcharge for new or popular releases. What’s worse is these charges aren’t that easy to spot.

A bit of research found Vue do the same, with a confusing week-by-week price chart showing four different prices for an adult, before you even look at off-peak and other discounts.

In the cinemas I looked at you can pay up to £2 more for your ticket purely on the choice of movie.

Here are a couple of examples:

Vue Westfield extra charges:

Vue extra charges

Odeon Tottenham Court Road extra charges:

Odeon extra charges

This new way of boosting ticket prices feels like a blatant attempt to hide price increases. 

Most people are going to think there will be a fixed price for a standard ticket, with discounts for off-peak times and different levels such as student or child prices.

So rocking up at the box-office, you’re unlikely to walk away when your ticket is suddenly a couple of quid extra – even more for a family.

Instead you’ll pay, if you even notice. It’s a stealth levy, taking advantage of people rushing to get their seats. And of course the most expensive films are the most popular films.

Maybe the cinemas are being charged more by the film distributors for these movies, and need to cover their costs. Fair enough. But just be honest about it.

I’d rather these big chains were just honest about it and made all the tickets more expensive. 

At least then you’d know what you’d have to pay – and be able to make the decision of whether it’s worth it or not.

Even more upgrades and extras

There are other extras too which quickly add to the cost of your tickets. Again it’s questionable what you get in return.

You pay more to see a film in 3D (and more again if you don’t already have some 3D glasses), though 3D has been a staple for years now so any extra tech costs must surely have been absorbed by now?

Premium seats promise more comfort and the best view, even in the tiniest of screens. In my experience these are  empty on all but the most packed screenings, suggesting people don’t see the value.

You can also pay more for “Extreme screens”, “Scene” and other buzzwords which basically mean bigger or fancier screens. But most screens are so big now, there’s not really much of a difference. And if the movie you want to see is in this screen, you’ve little choice but pay more.

How to avoid the charges

Not all chains are adding these blockbuster charges, so if you’ve the choice, see the latest releases elsewhere. My quick research didn’t uncover additional fees at Cineworld or Picturehouse cinemas, so at least you’ll know with them what you’re paying when you go.

Alternatively you could wait a week or two for the price to drop – though there’s no guarantee it will – or that the film will even still be showing.

You can of course save plenty by taking advantage of special offers and deals.

My number one trick is to get an NUS card – even if you’re not a student.

I’d recommend YPlan’s flash sale tickets to save on weekend Vue tickets (any film £7), while a 90-day Tastecard trial can bring discounts at most chains.

If you’re going midweek, it’s worth getting a Meerkat Movies membership, which can cost just a couple of quid for a year.

There are also plenty of short lived offers which I regularly update in my latest deals page, which you can read via the link below.

>> Check out these offers and all the other latest cinema deals in my guide

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