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Difference between going to the cinema in US and UK

ByDave Stopher

Nov 25, 2021

Although most of us know we can watch free movies at home, there’s something special about the theatre experience. Catching the latest film is an experience in itself; there’s the sound system, cozy seats, and the concession stands, all of which seem to add to our understanding and enjoyment. But going to watch a movie isn’t the same around the globe. For example, going to the cinema in the US and the UK has a few differences. To get a better understanding, here are a few differences between the two countries:

We Call Them Different Things

If you’re in the United States, you’ll likely hear people call it ‘movies,’ but that’s not the case in the United Kingdom. In the UK, it’s called a film. You also go to the cinema, not a movie theatre. This subtle difference may not seem like a big deal, but if you’re trying to find film tickets on Google, you’ll likely get strange results if you don’t know how to search effectively. For example, searching movie tickets in the UK brings up bizarre results that don’t apply.

Booking Your Seats

In the United States, purchasing tickets to a movie affords everyone the same opportunity to secure seats. You purchase a seat but getting to the theatre is when you’ll find the best seats. Should the show be popular, it might mean you’ll struggle to get seats together. In the UK, anytime you purchase a ticket, you’ll have to choose a seat in the cinema. Similar to a sporting event, all seats are labeled with a row and number, which individuals can book individually or as a cluster for groups. Individuals select where they’d like to sit (based on availability), and an usher ensures you’re sitting in the proper chair when you arrive.

Dual Tiers of Seating Options

In the UK, modern cinemas in Britain have stadium seating options for guests. Additionally, people can purchase premium tickets, which will give you larger, comfier seats that have perfect views of the screen. In the United States, most seats are stadium-style but are the exact seats throughout the theatre. Some theatres are switching to dual option seating, but it’s not the mainstream. Until this trend catches on, US movie-goers are going to have to settle for sub-standard seating. 

Different Concession Options

In the US, the only popcorn option guests receive is the size of the container. In the UK, options are king. Guests are offered salty or sweet popcorn with every purchase. While the US popcorn is known for the buttery goodness added to the popcorn, you won’t find that overseas. Not all is lost for UK cinemas, as they sell beer at the concessions (to pair with your candy, nachos, popcorn). You’ll also find plenty of UK treats throughout the concessions, instead of the American candy selection. Finally, if you’re hoping to add ice to your beverage—always ask the staff. Ice isn’t standard for drinks in the United Kingdom. 

Separate Rating System

The rating system in America uses the MPAA system (which rates movies as G, PG, Pg-13, and R). In the UK, they use the BBFC system. These include ratings of U (universal), PG (parental guidance), 12A (12 or under require parental accompaniment), 15 (no one under 15), and 18 (no one under 18). These subtle differences can influence which film you attend with your children, teens, or peers.

Film Options May Vary Considerably

Most big-budget films will release around the globe on the same day, but that’s not always the case. Thanks to international rights (or geographical taste), some films may be delayed in the UK. These movies may have opened in the US months ago, UK-produced films (that won’t be available in the US for several months), or foreign films (not the US or UK-based movies). These films vary considerably from the US theatre, as most (if not all) films shown are produced in America.

Whether Movies or Films, The Experience is Worth It

It doesn’t matter where you live in the world, spending an afternoon at the theatre is always a good time. Although the United Kingdom seems to have an elevated experience, grabbing a few friends and watching the latest flick is still fun anywhere you attend.