Coming from Australia, I found the price of cinemas in Japan to be in line with my expectations, being virtually identical to home. So the burning hole in my pocket gets bigger with each theatre visit. However, if you come from the US or a country where admission prices are around half of Tokyo’s exorbitant costs, then I would expect the hole in your pocket must be much bigger than mine.
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 in favour of witnessing the most hyped titles in their full digital screen and sounding glory. For example, 2017 saw a number of major hits reach the silver screen including the likes of Resident Evil; the Final Chapter, John Wick Chapter 2, Logan, Wonder Woman, Justice League and Thor; Ragnarok.
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 fact that cinemas are generally clean, comfortable and you never have a problem with excessive noise during the session, it is easy to sit back, relax and enjoy the film.
So, because the cinema experience here in Tokyo comes in many shapes and sizes, with the main districts offering a versatile range of viewing options, we decided to build this guide. We hope to provide you with details of some of the main movie theatre brands you will encounter across the country, with additional info about promotions, discounts and campaigns available from each of the local franchises.
Just a word of warning when choosing movies too, 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) next to your movie of choice, as this will ensure you can see it with its original voice acting accompanied by Japanese subtitles. The alternative being 吹替版 (ふきかえばん or Fukikaeban) meaning the dubbed version, usually with Japanese voice actors instead of the original English voice acting.
Probably the biggest network of cinemas located throughout Japan, Toho is the premier local brand. You can find theatres littered in 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). They offer 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 system, allowing you to join for free and for every 6 movies you watch you can see the next for free. Not a bad system, especially if you visit mostly during discount days.
- Au Monday – If you’re lucky (or unlucky depending on your experience) enough to be an AU customer, you can experience lower priced ticketing for both general admission and high school students respectively, with prices discounted to 1,100 yen and 900 yen respectively. They even have a half-priced pop-corn and drink combo available for the measly sum of 320 yen.
- Line Campaigns – Befriend Toho on Line for extra some sticker fun, but also for their ongoing updates and discount vouchers that come through. Of course, if they become too annoying you can always block them, but 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 – on the first of every month, the prices of tickets for all films regular seating is 1,100 yen.
- Ladies Day – on every Wednesday of the week is ‘Ladies Day’, again where all tickets for ladies are 1,100 yen. Time for you to get your movie goers group together and splurge on a school night.
- 14th Day – on the 14th day of every month, the price for all general seating also goes down to 1,00 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 in Kanto and greater Japan. However, you will find this chain mostly based in the concrete suburbs of Tokyo and in fewer locations across the country. Due to my home’s proximity to Kiba, I tend to frequent this complex often too, with a quality and feel similar to Toho, just on a smaller scale. Furthermore, they also offer 4DX and IMAX screen experiences, luxury seating choices via their special seat configurations, and you can expect nothing short of super cleanliness, supportive and sound quality.
Some of the discounts available through 109 (一マルキュー or Ichi Maru Kyuu) are their Cinema Point Card, which is very similar to the Toho card, for every 6 times you see a movie, you can see the next free. Useful for maximising your trips to the cinemas. However, 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.
In addition 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, a ticket is reduced to prices starting 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 at 1,300 yen discount, its 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), with their range of MOVIX and Picadilly branded (premium) theatres. They have major cinema complexes located in Shinjuku and Central Tokyo, and across the wards of Tokyo and major cities across the country.
The Picadilly branded theatre in Shinjuku also offers more luxurious seating alternatives with a premium seating or private room cinema experience, perfect for couples wanting to go that extra romantic mile. The private seat and room experiences (at the time of writing) were priced at 5,000 yen or 30,000 yen per pair respectively.
They have similar specials to other cinemas too, including:
- First Day Specials – Where 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 reduces to 1,100 yen.
- Senior Specials – All seniors (aged above 60) qualify for discount pricing of 1,100 yen, with the proper ID.
- And other discounts which vary by each individual cinema.
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.
Specific campaigns for SMT Members will also vary depending on the cinema, so 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 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 Tokyo, 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 Card, giving members ticket discount pricing of 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. So 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 chains, as the experience varies little between the bigger franchises for a normal screening. There are savings a plenty, so we are confident you will be able to fit a cheap viewing into your schedule among one of the larger franchises too.