Coming from Australia, I found the price of cinemas in Japan to be in line with my expectations, being virtually identical to home. Basically, meaning its quite expensive. However, if you come from the US or similarly priced country, admission prices are around half of Tokyo’s exorbitant costs. Then I can understand you would be in a whole new world of pain.
No doubt, short to mid-term residents of Tokyo or even greater Japan are used to the delay of big name titles reaching this country’s shores. Yet, I convinced myself to endure the wait, forgoing any kind of illegal viewing. This is of course in favour of witnessing the most hyped titles in their fully digital visual and audio glory. For example, 2017 saw a number of major hits reach the silver screen. This included the likes of Resident Evil; the Final Chapter, John Wick Chapter 2, Logan, Wonder Woman, Justice League and Thor: Ragnarok. All of these films were a must-see experience on the larger screen.
The General Japan Cinema Experience
In saying that, it is easy to like the current offering from Japanese cinemas. Offering multiple discount days, movie campaigns and loyalty cards to please even the regular moviegoer on a budget. You can also take advantage of premium seating options, a large range of movie merchandise, alcoholic and hot food options and reserved seating. Plus, the cinemas are generally clean, comfortable and you never have a problem with excessive noise. Thus, it is easy to sit back, relax and enjoy the film.
The cinema experience here in Tokyo comes in many shapes and sizes. The main districts offer a versatile range of viewing options and feature the main cinema complexes. This guide is designed to take you through the movie theatre experience. Furthermore, it includes additional info about promotions, discounts and campaigns available from each of the local franchises.
A Word of Warning
Just a word of warning when choosing movies too, there are usually two versions of English movies. If you wish to see the English (usually subtitled) version of a movie make sure to look for 字幕版 (じまくばん or Jimakuban). You should find this written either near or under the movie title. This will ensure you can see it with its original voice acting accompanied by Japanese subtitles.
Alternatively, the other version will have something like 吹替版 (ふきかえばん or Fukikaeban) meaning the dubbed version. These versions typically feature Japanese voice actors instead of the original English voice acting.
Probably the biggest network of cinemas located throughout Japan is Toho, the premier local brand. You can find these theatres littered across the main districts of Tokyo’s Roppongi, Shibuya and Shinjuku, but also in other areas like Kansai (Osaka), Tohoku (Sendai), Chubu (Nagoya & Shizuoka), Kyushu (Fukuoka & Nagasaki) and Shikoku (Ehime).
Toho offers premium screening options including IMAX, TCX, and MX4D combined with Dolby Atmos sound. Additionally, you can take advantage of their upmarket seating selection via their premier class upgrade for recliner style wider seating.
Types of specials you can find via Toho are:
- CineMileage Plus Card – The franchise’s point card system. It is free to join, and for every 6 movies, you watch you can watch one movie free. The system can also be used on discount days and is perfect for the thrift movie lover.
- Au Monday – As an AU customer, you can experience lower priced ticketing for both general admission and high school students respectively. However, this is only applicable to Mondays, with prices discounted to 1,100 yen and 900 yen respectively. They even have a half-priced pop-corn and drink combo reduced from 680 yen to a low 320 yen.
- Line Campaigns – Befriend Toho on Line for some extra sticker fun, but also for their ongoing updates and discount vouchers. Of course, if the regular updates become too annoying you can always block them. However, it’s another way to save a few ¥¥¥.
In addition to the above, you can also take advantage of the special days during the month for cheaper tickets. They include:
- First Day – The first day of every month means all prices for films drop to 1,100 yen.
- Ladies Day – Every Wednesday of the week is ‘Ladies Day’, and all tickets for ladies are slashed to 1,100 yen. Perhaps, a great and cheap girls night out, even on a school night.
- 14th Day – on the 14th day of every month, the price for all general seating becomes a measly 1,000 yen for everyone. Make sure to book in early, especially for all the lovebirds on Valentines or White Day.
Note, you may find some of the pricing will increase for special 3D/4D screenings or where 3D glasses are required (for an additional fee).
109 Cinema Complex is also another chain of cinemas situated inside Kanto and greater Japan. However, you will find this chain mostly based in the suburbs of Tokyo and in a few locations across the country. I have visited the Kiba cinema complex multiple times, as I live quite close. Even though this brand is a smaller cinema group, the quality and feel are similar to Toho. Furthermore, they also offer 4DX and IMAX screen experiences and luxury seating choices via their special seat configurations. The cinemas are always super clean inside, with supportive seating and high fidelity sound quality too.
One of them main loyalty programs available through 109 (一マルキュー or Ichi Maru Kyuu) is their Cinema Point Card. The system is very similar to the Toho card, that is, for every 6 times you see a movie, you can see the next free. Thus it is also for maximising your trips to the cinemas. Uniquely with this card, you also have access to additional discount days like:
- Cinema Card Day of the month – on the 19th day of every month, cardholders qualify for special discounts with general admission starting from 1,100 yen.
- Cinema Card Point Day – Every Tuesday cardholders qualify for discounts for regular tickets starting from 1,300 yen.
Further to the cardholder discounts mentioned above, there are also other special discounts available, such as:
- Senior pricing – Anyone aged over 60 can qualify for savings on their ticket prices with 2D sessions starting from 1,100 yen.
- 109 Cinema Day – On the 10th day of every month, tickets prices start at 1,100 yen.
- Ladies Day Special – Every Wednesday of the week, ladies can qualify for pricing from 1,100 yen.
- Late Show Screenings – See a movie after 9 pm, and you can qualify for their late show specials. Usually priced from 1,300 yen, it’s 500 yen off the regular admission price.
- 1st of the month – On the 1st day of each month they also offer discounted pricing of 1,100 yen for any movie.
- Pairs Day – On the 22nd of every month, 109 also offers discounts for a male and female pair starting at 2,200 yen for 2 tickets.
Special Movie Campaigns are always running every month, with various merchandise and or specials related to the timing of movie screenings. Check their homepage for further details.
Another large chain that exists throughout the Trawling towers of Tokyo and broader Nihon is SMT (Shochiku Multiplex Theatres). They have a range of MOVIX and Picadilly branded (premium) theatres. Most cinema complexes are located in Shinjuku and Central Tokyo, and across the outer wards of Tokyo and other major cities.
The Picadilly branded theatre in Shinjuku also offers more luxurious seating alternatives. This includes a premium seating or private room cinema experience, perfect for couples wanting to go that extra romantic mile. The private seat or room experiences (at the time of writing) were priced at 5,000 yen or 30,000 yen per pair respectively.
In addition, you can take advantage of the SMT Members card which offers a range of benefits including:
- Buy 6 get 1 free – For every 6 movies you see, you can watch the next movie for free.
- Premium Friday discounts – On the last Friday of each month, you can see any movie after 3 pm for 1,100 yen.
- Birthday Coupons – You will receive a voucher to use on all SMT Theatres up to 1,000 yen.
They have similar specials to other cinemas too, including:
- First Day Specials – On the first day of every month, regular pricing becomes 1,100 yen. In December, this reduces even further to 1,000 yen.
- Ladies Day Specials – On every Wednesday of the week, pricing for females drops to 1,100 yen.
- Senior Specials – All seniors (aged above 60) qualify for discount pricing of 1,100 yen.
- Individual cinemas also offer various other specials throughout the year.
Specific campaigns for SMT Members will also vary depending on the cinema. We recommend you check the pricing page of their website for more information.
テアトルシネマグルーピ (Teatoru Cinema Group) is a smaller cinema chain scattered across the Tokyo, Saitama and Kansai regions of Japan. Featuring cinema locations in the main districts of Shibuya, Yurakucho, Ikebukuro, Kobe and Umeda (Osaka) and more.
Of particular note though, is the introduction of a self-indulgent Kotatsu seating option. This is offered from one of the group’s cinemas complexes based out in Shin Tokorozawa, known as Let’s CinePark. Situated in the Shin Tokorozawa Parco Shopping Mall, and only a 35-minute train ride from Toky. It offers both the warmth of a thick winter futon plus the coziness of a home sofa. So head on down to escape the winter chill via way of this cozy couch configuration.
General Admission for the kotatsu option starts at 4,000 yen, with other discounts available to make the price a little less painful. You can also take advantage of their TCG Point Car. This card allows members to purchase tickets at 1,300 yen per ticket, plus a range of other benefits.
Japan is home to a multitude of other smaller franchise and independent cinemas. All of which play across a variety of themes and feature films from a range of countries too. If you have any experience with smaller cinemas, we would love to hear from you in the comments section.
Here at FAQ, we recommend you take advantage of the cinema discount days and the point card systems from the big chain. In terms of the experience, there is little variance between the bigger franchises for a normal screening. Rather, there are savings aplenty to be had. As a result, we are confident you will be able to fit a cheap viewing into your schedule among one of the larger franchises too.