Arts Picturehouse with permission for Varsity

After a busy week at Cambridge, choosing where to go for your weekend trip to the cinema should never be a cause for stress. But with so many different ticket prices, memberships and screenings, even the staunchest of cinephiles can be overwhelmed by the sheer variety of options available. So whether you’re after classic movies, the cheapest deals, or simply the largest screen, we are here to help with this quick guide to Cambridge's three cinemas.

Which cinema offers the best cinematic experience?

Nowadays, with so many surround sound systems and 4K images on offer, attending the cinema is as much about the visual and auditory experience as it is about the story. If you fancy a picture that captures every little detail, or if you want your seat shaken Oppenheimer style, The Light or VUE is the place for you. Both theatres offer immersive surround sound technology and 4K picture quality, and on top of this, The Light is the only cinema in Cambridge able to boast ownership of an IMAX screen.

Late night screenings at the Arts Picturehouse, meanwhile, suffer from a noisy neighbour, with the distant sound of partying in Revs providing an unwelcome backing track during most moments of silence. My screening of Charlotte Wells’ Aftersun certainly wasn’t spared, and the final quiet moments of the film were accompanied by a musical rendition from its next door neighbour.

“If you enjoy the volume turned up to one thousand, and prefer your emotional climaxes undisturbed by nearby partying, make Cambridge’s two multiplexes your top picks.”

Where can you find the greatest variety?

Arts Picturehouse with permission for Varsity

Three cinemas also means plenty of choice, and what it lacks in sound, the Arts Picturehouse certainly makes up for in variety. With their weekly Discover and reDiscover screenings you can revisit beloved classics and enjoy new arthouse releases, as well as catch any past screenings that you may have missed.

Indie screenings at the VUE are, unfortunately, a rare sight, but the same cannot be said of The Light. Much like the Arts Picturehouse, The Light is home to an impressive array of special screenings, with frequent retrospectives on your favourite directors and an impressive selection of international cinema. In fact, in pre-Covid Cambridge, as I searched endlessly for any nearby cinema showing Céline Sciamma’s masterful Portrait of a Lady on Fire, it was The Light that provided that one rare preview amid a sea of screenings of Disney’s now largely forgotten Doolittle remake.

“The final quiet moments of the film were accompanied by a musical rendition from its next door neighbour”

Which cinema has the best food & drink?

For some, trips to the cinema are as much about the food as they are about the movie. Between tongue dyeing slushies and overpriced popcorn, cinema trips are, for many, also culinary excursions. For those who value their in-theatre feast as much as the movie on screen, as well as those who consider a lack of Tango Ice Blast a movie-going deal-breaker, the VUE is the best choice for you.

With a seemingly infinite array of flavours and food options, the Grafton-based cinema has plenty on offer for those who feel peckish mid-movie, with the pride of their food and drink counter being the ‘Coca Cola Freestyle’, a touch-screen fizzy drink dispenser that can mix together any of the 100+ flavours you choose from. Whether you find the concept of this bite-sized coke factory intriguing, or whether, like me, you find the Frankenstein-esque drink designer stomach-churning, it remains true that the VUE is never short of food or drink options, nauseating or not.

Still, when you are on a budget, and faced by food and drink costs that often outweigh the film ticket itself, there’s no harm in a quick, and far more affordable, pre-cinema trip to a nearby Tesco or Sainsbury’s.

Where can you find the most affordable membership?

Finding the right snacks or screen is all very well and good - but what about the prices? Heading to the cinema often seems impossible on a student budget, but if you’re after the best value for money, Picturehouse’s U25 Membership is a Cambridge essential. It’s suited for avid movie goers and casual theatre visitors, and it’s the cheapest you will find tickets at any Cambridge cinema, with weekday tickets costing just £4.99 when you sign up for free via the Picturehouses app.

Arts Picturehouse with permission for Varsity

For the more committed cinephiles among us, The Light’s £15.99 a month unlimited subscription is worth considering. But to be truly worth the steeper price, you would have to visit at least three times a month, an impossible task if you’re swamped by a busy uni schedule that leaves little time for movie-going.

From snacks to surround sound, Cambridge’s three cinemas have all your movie-going needs covered. For more information on screenings, memberships and more, check out their websites in the links below.


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Arts Picturehouse:

The Light: