Cinema Experiences Made Better

Cinema visits are well established as a great night out. But your experience can be improved. Get a great seat, some popcorn and follow our great tips for a great cinema experience. Cinema goers take heed. We have compiled information to heighten your experience; from making it run more smoothly to avoiding disappointment, from jumping the queues to the best cinemas in town.

Buy tickets in advance

On a typical Friday or Saturday night, hundreds of people will be queueing outside cinemas across the country to buy tickets for some huge Hollywood blockbuster that everybody is talking about. They'll all want to be among the first to see it and up to half of them are likely to be disappointed, as tickets will be sold out well before they reach the box office. Others will walk up to a machine near the entrance, swipe their credit card, grab their tickets and walk straight in—missing the queues. These people were wise enough to buy their tickets in advance, online or over the phone. In some cases it makes no more sense to wander ticketless into a cinema than it does to show up at a rare performance by the Bolshoi Ballet and hope to get in. You might, but you'll more likely find yourself all dressed up with nowhere to go. Visiting your local cinema has changed and a planned outing, complete with pre-booked tickets, can often be essential, especially when it comes to new releases. But although most cinemas offer advanced booking, they don't usually number seats, so you still need to arrive in reasonable time to get a decent spot.

 

Use the Internet

Search the websites of the main cinema chains or arthouse cinemas for a film you want to see and check where it's on. Then, when you've found a venue, buy your tickets online. You'll pay the same as at the cinema box office, plus a small handling fee, but it's worth it if you want to go on an opening weekend or early in the run of a major release. You can book tickets several weeks in advance.

 

If it's good, bookmark it

When you find a cinema that's convenient and that you really like—because it has helpful staff, it generally screens a good range of films or it has particularly comfortable seating with good sightlines—bookmark it in your Internet browser. You will then be able to go straight back to its web site in just one click to check what's on and when.

Or, you may be able to register with a particular venue or cinema chain, so that they can send you regular emails or Facebook notifications. Getting on the mailing list means you'll be notified of new releases, invited to preview screenings, and receive discount tickets or 2-for-1 deals.

 

Side-step the pre-show ads

You may hate them, but an audience of mostly young adults, with spare cash in their pockets and nothing to do but stare at the screen, makes an ideal target for advertisers. But you can cheat the system, and time your arrival to within a minute or two of the start of what you've actually come to see. Cinemas rarely announce when the main feature starts, so you'll need to ask and even then you may not get a clear answer. But politely persist—if you're only going to be sitting there talking idly until the lights go down, you might as well be enjoying a pre-show drink or snack in a nearby bar or cafe. You can reckon on there being about 15 to 20 minutes of trailers and advertisements before the main film begins. But there's a danger in taking your seats at the last minute, if they're not numbered. You could find that the best ones have gone and that if you're in a group, you have to split up.

 

Eat before or after the show

The food they sell you at the cinema is messy, unhealthy and over-priced. And getting hold of it usually means joining a long queue. Cinemas are constantly coming up with new tricks to keep us spending £10-£15 for junk that we'd probably never dream of buying anywhere else. So why not stop buying and eating the stuff. Have a good meal before or after the show instead. Most of us eat the popcorn simply because we associate it with watching a film. This link is relatively new. It was only really with the arrival of multiplex cinemas from the US in the 1980s that the popcorn-and-cola craze started. Before then an usherette would offer drinks from a tray carried around her neck during an interval between screenings. And before the Second World War, there was no food at all in cinemas, because the owners of the grand ‘picture palaces’ didn't want their carpets and upholstery ruined by chocolate and spilled drinks. So boycott those trashy snacks as an act of nostalgia for the golden age of film.

 

enjoy the credits

Credits at the end of a film last about 7 or 8 minutes and most cinemas put the house-lights partly up to help people to leave safely. But don't feel you have to rush out. If you want to sit and collect your thoughts after a good film, enjoy the closing music, or find out which locations were used, that's all part of the show and the staff should respect your wishes. There may even be a hidden scene at the very end.

 

orange Wednesdays

If you have a mobile phone on the network Orange (or EE)—or even if you just know somebody who does—then you can get 2 for 1 cinema tickets every Wednesday. All you have to do is send a text message with the word 'FILM' to 241 and wait for a unique code to arrive in your inbox. This code will essentially allow you and one other person to get half price tickets to the cinema.

 

Try open-air viewing

Why not try something a little different. Pack your picnic rug and head for an open-air cinema. Sit back under the stars with a drink in your hand and enjoy a favourite classic—or sometimes one of the latest releases. Google ‘open air cinema’ for information about open-air screenings that take place during summer in your area..

But do be aware of potential pitfalls before you go. You may have to travel some distance for this treat, and the weather might not always oblige with a balmy evening. The sound may be drowned at times by passing traffic, the sounds of local wildlife or a boisterous child, or have to be kept low to avoid disturbing any neighbours. So if you're a serious film buff looking to capture every second of what's up there on the silver screen, you could be disappointed. If, however, you treat it as a unique opportunity to have a relaxed picnic on a warm night with a bunch of friends and family, it's different and fun.

Buff up your knowledge before the film with these great tips from film critic Jo Berry.