It is fair to say that movie lovers are spoiled for choice in Switzerland. More than 270 cinema’s are packed into this small country and deliver amazing diversity with U.S., French, Italian, British and German movies sharing the screen with home-grown productions and films from all corners of the planet. But the relatively high cost of cinema tickets limits movie theater visits to special occasions, with the average resident going to the movies just two time per year.
While movie tickets, like most leisure activities in Switzerland, are somewhat expensive, there is absolutely no need to let your movie-going life dwindle down to that sad statistic. Try following these simple tips to get more good times at the movies for less.
1. Sign up to cinema loyalty programs
This is the easiest and most obvious way to save on cinema visits. Many Swiss cinemas, both large and small, offer some kind of loyalty programs. Larger cinema operators issue prepaid cards which let you get discounts when you use them to pay for your tickets.
For example, the Kinokarte.ch card comes at a one-time cost of 25 francs and lets you and your companions get 5 francs off each ticket at Arthouse Movie cinemas in Zurich, the Houdini and Riffraff cinemas in Zurich and the Bourbaki cinema in Lucerne.
The Ciné Pass card can be purchased for 30 Swiss francs and lets you watch movies at 8 cinemas in Geneva for just 10 francs per film. The Arena Card comes at a one-time fee of 40 francs and lets you watch movies at Arena cinemas (Zurich Sihlcity, La Praille in Geneva and more) for 13 francs per show, including club seats.
Kitag Cinemas, which operates more than 20 cinemas in Zurich, Bern, Basel, Lucerne, Biel/Bienne, Winterthur and St. Gallen, offers its Carte Bleue loyalty card at a 20-franc annual fee. The card entitles holders to a discount on regular, club and lounge seats.
2. Consider an annual pass
If you really love movies and go to the cinema at least once a week (or would like to), an annual membership may be your ticket. A number of Swiss cinemas offer these, typically for between 300 and 500 francs per year.
For example, the Pathé Pass for Pathé cinemas costs 480 francs per year and gives you unlimited access to movies. For the sake of comparison, a single adult movie ticket at Bern’s Westside Pathé costs 19.50 Swiss francs. The ciné.viel unlimited pass from Kult.kino (Basel) also costs 480 francs annually, while a single entry costs 18 francs. The Rex cinema in Bern charges 300 francs for its annual pass (500 francs for a two-person pass) – a regular ticket is 17 francs.
It is pretty obvious that you get a whole lot more movies for your money with an annual pass, but the value of passes depends primarily on how often you want to go to the movies and how many different movies a cinema plays every month.
3. Watch movies on Mondays
This can take some getting used to, but watching movies on Mondays can save you a lot of money because many Swiss cinemas discount Monday tickets by around 20%.
4. Take advantage of bank and subscription discounts
If you have a Swiss bank account, chances are you may already be entitled to discounts that you may not know about. For example, customers of the Zürcher Kantonalbank (ZKB) can watch movies at Arthouse cinemas for 15 francs instead of the usual 25 francs. ZKB customers also get a 10-franc discount on the Kinokarte.ch card (as do Neue Zürcher Zeitung subscribers).
5. Association membership and employee discounts
Many employers, professional associations and special interest groups in Switzerland have partnerships with cinemas that let members get discounts on movie tickets. For example, Roche employees and former employees enrolled in the Entrez! program get discounts (up to 80% off) at cinemas in Basel and Zug. Members of the Kaufmännischer Verband Bern receive four 5-franc discount vouchers annually. It is worth checking whether your employer or associations offer similar discounts.
6. Redeem rewards points for cinema vouchers
A number of banks and retailers let you redeem the loyalty rewards you earn by using your credit card or loyalty card for cinema vouchers, often at very good rates. For example, Migros Cumulus program members can redeem each 5-franc Cumulus voucher for a 10-franc Pathé Cinema voucher – doubling its value. UBS Keyclub members can redeem their points for ProCinema vouchers that can be redeemed at most cinemas in Switzerland (30 points for 2 ProCinema vouchers).
7. Ride those student deals
Many cinemas offer discounts for students, and if you are currently studying you can grab these discounts for major savings. Holding a Stucard, the student debit card offered by the cantonal banks, entitles you to discounts of between 2 francs and 6 francs at a number of cinemas across the country. Membership in the Legi student discount program entitles you to discounts of between 2 and 4 francs per movie at a number of cinemas in German-speaking Switzerland.
Students receiving a scholarship may be eligible for Kulturlegi membership which brings discounts at many Swiss cinemas (more on this below).
8. Are you eligible for KulturLegi discounts?
If for any reason you have a very low income, you may be eligible to apply for membership with KulturLegi, a Caritas initiative aimed at making cultural activities more accessible to those who aren’t rolling in brass. Membership entitles you to major discounts at around 40 cinemas across Switzerland. Discounts knock between 20% and 50% off regular ticket prices.
9. Join a cinema club
A number of Swiss cinemas operate as clubs maintained by their members. Joining a cinema club is not for everyone, but if you enjoy specific movie genres and the companionship offered by a club, they can provide an affordable and interesting experience. Typically, an annual membership fee is charged, after which you either do not pay anything for movie showings, or you pay a small token ticket fee.