I love film. That much should be fairly obvious considering the site you’re on right now (as apparently should be the fact that I also, in reverse order: live, sleep and eat it – the latter not strictly recommended). However, I do have one slight problem when it comes to sourcing the intake of my cinematic-nourishment – I’m a student.
Now, taking a four-year course a good two-hundred miles away from home does mean that – unsurprisingly – I quite like trying to be reasonably stringent (read: ‘depressingly cheap’ ) with the funds I have to hand, as of course, a fair chunk of it will wind up falling into that happy category of ‘My First Debt’ – although that’s more of a problem for future me really. Man, he’s gonna hate me.
So, as I like my movie-watching to be done the legal way, I’ve found a fair few ways to do so without breaking the bank, including a couple of avenues you may not have ventured down yet yourselves.
1. Free Trials.
A pretty obvious one to start with I know, but you might not be aware of just how many services there are available that offer a free trial period.
The obvious pair that falls into this category is of course LOVEFiLM and Netflix, and by now the majority of you will have most likely taken either one or both of them up on their month of free service (if you go with LOVEFiLM’s free month, be sure to choose yourself the best package available, as they’re all free for that month). There are others though, which also offer up similar deals. Blockbuster (remember them?) will do you an unlimited fortnight of free films (and video games) through the post, as well as discounted rentals in store. They’ll also separately give new customers to their actual stores (as in not online but in the real world) a free fortnight of rentals. The lesser known Cinema Paradiso, who seem to pride themselves on their foreign film library on their homepage, despite a quick browse of their selection showing they have pretty much the same overall collection as everyone else (not a bad thing at all, just seems a little odd upon visiting their site) offer up a free fortnight trial period themselves, however, a quick search will usually bring up a promotional code to stretch that out to thirty days. Sky also recently launched their new service, NOW TV (which is technically currently in beta), which as well as individual rentals, essentially offers up their Sky Movies package as a separate online service to anyone willing to pay £15 a month for a ‘Sky Movies Pass’ and of course – as otherwise it would have no place on this list, it offers up a free 30 day pass.
Next is a site I’ve literally just discovered (and by ‘just’ I mean I’d written this entire article, was searching for images and happened across it entirely by chance having never seen it mentioned anywhere, ever, and this section is the very last thing I’m adding to this whole article), Acetrax. Apparently Sky acquired this lot earlier in the year in the run up to launching NOW TV, but quite frankly that’s not what’s important here. What is important, is that if you sign up on their website they’ll credit you with £3.49, which is enough for 1 or 2 free rentals. It’s not a lot but hey, it’s free!
Finally, and it’s an odd little one, there’s MUBI (bonus points for being fun to say), who offer a free 7 day trial. MUBI like to think of themselves as more of the connoisseur’s choice, serving up a slightly odd blend of cult classics, never-heard-of-it art house films and only the occasional more mainstream title. Now although I haven’t taken the plunge yet myself, I’ve found MUBI to be quite an intriguing option for a while now, as their service is rather unique. Not too long ago they mostly offered rentals on an individual basis and used a not overly tempting pricing structure (about the same few quid per individual rental you’d expect to pay over the counter in Blockbuster for example), however times have changed and MUBI has indeed moved with them in its own way. Instead of a set library of films to pick from, MUBI offers up one new film every day, and each film is available for thirty days. It’s certainly an odd and quite interesting system – or perhaps just unusually limiting depending on how you look at it – but then after the trial’s over it is only £2.99 a month, it is pretty much pot-luck what films you’ll be getting so you’ll obviously want to see if you enjoy the selection enough during that week before plonking down the three quid.
I suppose that last part leads into a rather obvious point here; if you do decide to continue with any of these services beyond the freebie stage, make sure you go with an option that you’re confident you’ll actually get your money’s worth out of. I’ve personally stuck with LOVEFiLM’s streaming-only package for a fiver a month, as I definitely use it enough to justify the pretty reasonable cost, and if I was a subscriber I’m sure I’d say the same about Netflix for £5.99 (in my mind it’s ‘two pints or films for a month’).
Also, make sure you get all you’re entitled to when you sign up, as if you do a quick search around the net beforehand you’re likely to find offers such as codes for free Amazon vouchers with LOVEFiLM or something similar with other services for joining (sometimes just for taking the free trial and sometimes for becoming a paying customer, it depends on the site), which is usually worth more than the first month or so itself. In fact, just this second, a quick search brought me to a deal for five free weeks at Blockbuster plus a £20 voucher to spend online. Cashback websites are also a must for incredible deals, even if you’re just signing up for a trial. Make sure to give the likes of Top CashBack and Quidco a search to see what money you could be claiming back or flat out making off of free trials. At the moment, Top CashBack will give you about 12 quid just for signing up to the free trials of either LOVEFiLM or Netflix!
So it always pays to give voucher code and cash-back sites a look beforehand. Also, if you’re feeling extra saving-savvy, be sure to check out Amazon (who own LOVEFiLM) when they have one of their big sales on with time-specific reductions (usually around Christmas, the New Year, after Thanksgiving, etc), as you might be lucky enough to find a 6-month subscription worth £60 on sale for £17.50 (they seem to offer this at least once every time they have such a sale), which is some pretty hard-to-beat value if you find yourself at the computer at the right time.
Finally, the necessary word of warning with this point, and I’m not underestimating the intelligence of anyone out there (clearly as you’re reading ESLF you’re a wise, intelligent, witty and above all else, fine looking, attractive member of the public, so well done you), but make sure that if you don’t want to carry on and pay for whichever service you choose, to remember to cancel your account and (depending on the service) get all DVDs/Blu Rays sent back before the trial period is up. This is one of those annoying things that sounds obvious but is surprisingly easy to make a mess of and lose track of the exact date you need to bail out by, so take heed and I’m sure you’ll be fine. Just in case you do forget and get charged though, as long as you stop using the service they may be willing to refund you if you plead your case and tell them you missed the date and haven’t used it since, but obviously there’s no guarantee there so if you don’t want to continue with them, do your best to remember.
2. Just Plain Free!
OK, so by this point we’ve gotten a good 4, maybe 5 months of films for free. I’m pretty happy about that – good for us! But what if you’ve gotten too used to this ‘free’ habit? Well you might not be out of luck just yet.
Thanks mostly to the odd ad-break (which an ad-blocker may be able to get the better of in some cases) there are a few legal websites available that allow you to stream films with no subscription, absolutely free. If that sounds too good to be true, well… that’s because it kind of is.
When you’re streaming films online, be it via LOVEFiLM Instant or Netflix, you generally have to be willing to be fairly un-fussy about what films you want to watch. They all have their own selection of terrific movies, but if you’ve ever used such a service you’re probably used to the fact that no major recent releases are likely to be available for you to stream – but if you’re a big film fan it’s no big deal, there’s still plenty of slightly older and classic quality films available.
However, when it comes to films that are available for free, it’s relatively slim-pickings as far as quality is concerned – but that doesn’t mean that a keen eye and a bit of patience won’t reward you with a few good‘uns among the made-for-TV and straight-to-DVD dross.
The best of the bunch, as far as I’m concerned, for their pretty decent collection of free films is Blinkbox. You can go and visit them right now (although I’d rather you wait until after you’ve finished reading this of course) and instantly watch Seven, Corpse Bride, Magnolia, The Iron Giant, A Bittersweet Life, An American Werewolf in London, The 39 Steps and surprisingly a fair few more quality films if you’re willing to have a little root around (it’s actually where I first watched one of my cult favourites Death Race 2000, which is still available too). I’ve kept my eye on their free collection for a while now and it’s continued to grow pretty admirably over time, so it’s certainly one to check out if you’re interested.
Another website that might be worth a look is Indie Movies Online. As its title lets on, it serves up heaps of lesser-known movies that, frankly, I’ve never heard of in the majority of cases, but a little look did also bring up the likes of Battle Royale, My Left Foot, King of New York and Dark Star, and a fair few others looked pretty interesting as well so it’s definitely worthy of a look.
Outside of those two sites, it’s pretty much a fruitless task as far as others I’ve found go. The odd advert blazoned across American web pages I’ve seen in the past leads me to believe that Crackle has a fairly reasonable selection in the States. Here on the other hand? Not so much. The only films from their paltry selection available at the moment, that I have any reason to believe may be worth your time, are Kung Fu Hustle and Dick, but beyond those two it’s the usual selection of ‘what in God’s name is that?’
Unless you’ve been dying to see the I’m sure tragically overlooked, ‘There’s a Girl in My Soup’.
Elsewhere there is also Viewster, but frankly it’s unlikely that you’ll find anything worth your time. That might sound a little harsh, but to be honest if you find something you actually want to watch I’ll be pretty surprised.
Lastly, although strictly speaking not quite free (it’s 35p for the text I believe) there’s… OH. Never mind. I was about to suggest Orange’s Film To Go service, however after a year of offering up a film every week, it apparently ended (at the time of writing this) …yesterday. They say they might be back in the future but, well I’ve timed this perfectly haven’t I? Moving along then!
3. Bargain Hunting.
We’ve done quite well so far. Plenty of free entertainment has come and gone, but what about when it comes time to actually spend a little cash? Well whether you have a specific film in mind – or just can’t resist a bargain – I probably don’t need to tell you to shop around to get the best deals. If you’re determined to buy new, whether on DVD or Blu Ray, it usually pays to give a comparison site such as Find-DVD or 123PriceCheck a quick look to, at the very least, check that you’re not paying far above what you could be for your film of choice. Comparison sites don’t take offers on buying multiple films into account though (buy one get one free, etc), so be sure to check around as pretty much every site going has their own multi-buy deals on the go.
If on the other hand you’re willing to buy second-hand, then PlayTrade and Amazon Sellers are your new best friends. There are plenty of other websites that sell movies second-hand, but in my experience it’s usually quite hard to beat Play and Amazon for used deals that are the cheapest of the cheap.
A particular advantage with buying used from Play is that all their second-hand goods still come with free delivery, whereas DVDs and Blus on Amazon generally come with a £1.26 delivery fee, so you’re only going to be able to get under-a-quid deals for a single film on Play, but that doesn’t mean you still won’t find some cracking deals on Amazon. Especially if you take advantage of box-sets when you do your movie shopping, which may not always have as much in terms of extras, but if that doesn’t bother you it can really bring down the price-per-film.
Annoyingly, you can’t filter Play results by PlayTrade prices, but if you filter an Amazon search by price it’ll take into account the used prices as well, so for a quick trick try sorting all of Amazon’s DVDs by price and bask in that special glow of the 1p film. Now, of course being Amazon, there’s that delivery charge to keep in mind, but if you filter the search results down to box-sets you’re in for some pretty sweet deals, sometimes even on new products as well.
Obviously you’ll want to be a little wary with the sellers you deal with, but the vast majority on Play and Amazon will be sitting pretty with a near-100% positive rating, and I’ve personally never run into any problems (and I’ve used these services more than my fair share of times).
Also sometimes worth a look, and it’ll sound more than a little obvious, is eBay. Now, clearly eBay is a little more erratic with its prices and deals, and it’s not always overwhelmingly competitive when it comes to buying individual films, but one trick that eBay does have up its sleeve is people selling their films off in bulk and in bundles (or ‘job lots’) of films they’ve arranged themselves. So if there is a film you have in mind it might be worth checking to see if anyone’s selling it off with a few other movies that take your fancy for a nice little bargain. Alternatively, just search for words like ‘job lot’, ‘collection’ and ‘bundle’, sort by the lowest prices and see what deals are out there, you might be pleasantly surprised.
4. At the Cinema.
Well you’ve gotten this far, but streaming, DVDs and Blu Rays are only going to satisfy your hunger for all things film for so long before you’ll find yourself off to the cinema.
By this point, I probably don’t need to point out that if you’re on Orange, or know someone who is, then Wednesday is most likely your regular cinema day of choice (Lord knows that Wednesdays have become about as busy as the weekends at most places since Orange Wednesdays were introduced).
If you’re not on Orange though, what options have you got for saving a few quid at the cinema? Well, that depends on which chain is your local.
At Vue, you can sign up for free for one of their ‘Cheap Day’ cards which entitles you to heavily discounted tickets on one day each week (it depends on where you are but it’s usually a Tuesday). They also accept Nectar Cards, so you could save yourself a couple of quid if you’ve got some points handy.
At Cineworld, they’ve recently introduced an incentive to get bums in seats by offering a 10% discount if you book ahead of time online. If you go regularly enough to make it worth the money you might also be interested in signing up for one of their unlimited cards, getting you into as many screenings as you like for £14.99 a month (as well as discounted snacks and up to half price off of subscriptions to Empire).
ODEON offer a reward scheme known as the ODEON Première Club. A Première Club card sets you back between £1.99 and £9.99 depending on how many bonus points you want to start off with, but once you’re on board you can earn points to spend on snacks and eventually tickets (and can earn bonus points for seeing British films – a nice touch). You also get 25% off on Tuesdays and can save 15% any day if you book online.
So it largely depends on which cinemas you have available to you, but it pays to look into what offers they have available, especially if you’re going along pretty often.
A couple of other things to look out for – if you’re a Sky Movies subscriber and live nearby one of their Sky Movies Screenings then you could be able to bag yourself a couple of free tickets to see a film ahead of its general release (they’re offering screenings of The Bourne Legacy until August 7th as I write this, to give you an idea of what you can expect). Also if you’re on O2, it may be worth checking their Priority Moments as they tend to have offers on with ODEON, if only for free snacks – but I don’t think anyone would say no to free popcorn!
BONUS STAGE! Competitions.
OK, so this one’s a bit of a stretch, but if you look around enough websites and film blogs you’ll be surprised just how many competitions you’ll run into. You’ll find a lot from big companies, like Play for example, but if you stick to more humble film blogs (like perhaps, this one) you tend to narrow down your competition and you might do better than you think at grabbing the odd DVD or Blu Ray, although it of course all comes down to luck. It can be well worth your time though, and well (upcoming obvious statement in 3, 2, 1…) the more you enter, the better your chances (I’ve entered a hell of a lot this year and I’ve done quite well, so I hereby pass on my luck to you, reader!)
So on that final note, who wants to win some Chuck Norris?