Movie classifications and costs


There has been a cinema renaissance in the last two decades, following a decline in the ‘60s and ’70s, when many cinemas were turned into shops, bingo halls and even places of worship. Today around 2,600 separate screens are in operation and cinemas are thriving.

Attendances have more than doubled in the last ten years. The mainstream cinema scene is dominated by the major chains such as MGM and Odeon. In the last decade, many multiplexes have been built (often in new out-of-town leisure and shopping complexes) each with ten or more screens, Dolby or THX surround sound, and offering comfortable, extra-wide seats with ample leg-room in air-conditioned auditoriums. Free parking, cafés, restaurants, bars and games rooms may also be available.

London has numerous cinemas (around 100 in inner London alone) showing not only the latest films, but many classics and foreign-language films, usually screened with their original soundtracks and subtitles. However, many London cinemas have small screens. Ticket prices range from around £3 for children’s matinees in provincial cinemas up to around £16 (average £7 to £12) for first-run films in London’s West End. Most cinemas offer reductions (usually half price or less) for children and pensioners, although you should check in advance, as some reductions apply only to certain performances. Many cinemas have a reduced price day, usually Mondays, when admittance for afternoon shows is cheaper. (Discounts, on the other hand, may be available on any afternoon). Many modern cinemas have facilities for the disabled.

All films on general release are given a classification by the British Board of Film Censors (shown below) which denotes any age restrictions:

Classification: Age Restriction

U: None
PG: Parental guidance advised
12a: No one under 12 admitted unless accompanied by an adult
15: No one under 15 admitted
18: No one under 18 admitted

Children (or adults) who look younger than their years may be asked for proof of their age, e.g. a school identity card, student card or driving licence, for admittance to age-restricted performances. Most cinemas accept telephone bookings (major credit cards accepted) and tickets can usually be purchased in advance. There may be an additional fee when booking by credit card, e.g. 50p to £1 a ticket. Tickets may, however, be sold only on the day of the performance. Booked seats are usually held until 30 minutes before a performance begins.

There are private film clubs in the major cities and local film societies in all areas, and a number of magazines for film buffs are published. In London, Time Out and What’s On provide comprehensive film reviews and list all London cinema programmes and performance times. National and local papers publish cinema programmes (mostly London ones in the former) and most also review the latest films.

This article is an extract from Living and working in Britain. Click here to get a copy now.

Further reading

Does this article help?

Do you have any comments, updates or questions on this topic? Ask them here: