I'm probably wrong, but...

Going to the cinema vs. Watching at home

Is it economical to go to the cinema anymore? Why not build your own home theatre? That's a rhetorical question, but there are some valid points surrounding it which I'll get into here.

Cinema Tickets are expensive.

I live in the UK, where there are 3 major Cinema chains with sites across the country. These are Odeon, Cineworld and Vue.
They are all competitively priced against each other and all vary their prices based on location, with new releases sometimes costing a bit more and often London being more expensive.
I am quite fortunate that there are lots of cinemas in the Birmingham area, but this isn't always the case sometimes one operator has a monopoly.

I know that cinemas don't profit solely on their ticket prices - which is why they charge astronomical amounts for food and drink. Most of the price of the ticket goes back to the film studios/distributors, Cinema chains instead make money off food and drink and advertising (but even that is often shared)

Putting all that aside for a minute, let's take a quick look at the prices for my preferred cinema, Cineworld NEC, all are Standard 2D.

Ticket Price
Adult (Peak) £11.40
Adult (Off Peak £9.40
Child (Peak) £7.90
Child (Off Peak) £6.90
Student (Peak) £8.40
Student (Off Peak) £7.40

Cineworld define 'Peak' as after 5pm Monday to Friday or Bank Holidays and give £2 off for Adults and £1 off for Concessions (Child and Student here) in the off-peak.
Further to this they charge £0.70 to book online or by phone and certain films are more.
By comparison at Cineworld Leicester Square (London) a standard peak adult ticket costs £13.50, for two people that's £27 just for the tickets.
Don't even get started on 3D or IMAX showings..

It is quite a complex mess if you ask me, and this is one specific cinema at one specific chain, theoretically there are thousands of pricing possibilities.

For two people to go and see a film in the peak period (such as a new release on a Bank Holiday Monday or an evening after work) the ticket alone will cost £22.80.
You can't discount other costs such as parking (£1.50 in my example) and Fuel to get there (let's say £5) and finally some food and drink, I normally go to a supermarket and get two drinks for £2 and a couple of bags of sweets for £2.

Item Cost Each Running Total
Tickets x2 £11.40 £22.80
Drinks x2 £1 £26.30
Sweets x2 £1 £28.30
Parking £1.50 £24.30
Fuel £5 £33.30

So, after all that, the trip to the cinema has cost a total of £33.30.
As I mentioned earlier, these prices will vary, but for me personally that's what it could cost.

If you were being really adventurous you could throw in a meal for two at a restaurant or food and drink purchased at the cinema, but I don't do either of those things usually.

It could be cheaper to do it yourself.

With a bit of careful research you could have a similar, if not better experience DIY'ing it.

It's Black Friday weekend, most retailers are throwing 'deals' in your face. I took the opportunity to buy an Xbox One S for £169.99, which included Rocket League and Forza 7 for £10 extra, bringing my total to £179.99.
I've never owned an Xbox. I have a PS3 Slim from a few years ago, but don't use it much anymore, to be honest I fell out of love with games and lots of life things happened.

Ever since, I have just played games on my PC because I found it easier and cheaper, when my PC was already very capable I didn't have to buy another console and mess around switching inputs or anything to play.
Having said that, I haven't been adverse to consoles just never saw the point in paying loads of money - like the original Xbox One's launch price of $499 back in 2013 or Project Scorpio aka. the Xbox One X's launch price of $499 but granted, that does give you 4K gaming.
I have to say, I much preferred the name Project Scorpio it sounded 10x better than Xbox One X and didn't add any naming confusion!

I have been watching the price of the Xbox One S for a while and since the Xbox One X came out the price has dropped (which is to be expected for a newer generation product) but not enough for me, yet.

One of the big selling points to me of the Xbox One S/X is that is has a built-in 4K Blu-Ray player, we already have a 4K TV which we got about a year ago (not in Black Friday sales) for an incredible price.
We also have a soundbar as the built-in speakers on the TV are appalling - the soundbar wins hands down.

As I see it there are three things you need to kickstart your home cinema experience:

Where do I actually get 4K content?

You could go for a Netflix 4K subscription or watch 4K content on Amazon Prime Video if your internet connection can handle it. Streaming 4K vs a local copy is arguably not as good an experience for a big reason bitrate.
Netflix recommend 25 mbps but you can often get away with less and Amazon recommend around 15 mbps. The bitrate the content is streamed at can greatly affect the video quality, both sites use Adaptive Bitrate Streaming, which basically means the quality will adjust to what your connection can handle.

While both these services offer vast content libraries at reasonable prices, because of various things such as licensing agreements what is available when and where changes rapidly. For example there are many things that the US Netflix library has which other countries like the UK doesn't (even if those shows were produced here! - cough BBC cough)

A big caveat with online streaming is that it requires internet that can stream video. This might not be possible because you have a usage cap from your ISP or you simply don't have a fast enough connection.
In the UK, a lot of communities are still using ADSL at a snails pace, however the rollout of FTTC and FTTP is slowly progressing.
If you have a usage cap, you need to be careful streaming video. According to Netflix their 4K streams use 7GB per hour - to put that into context a lot of UK ISPs give less than 30GB per month.

The 'old-fashioned' approach is to use physical media, a positive thing about this is that you own the content and it doesn't disappear after a few months in your catalog - and you don't need the internet to watch!
Here that media is 4K Blu-Ray discs (which aren't as expensive as I first thought) on Amazon most cost between £15 and £25. But it could just as easily be locally stored content on something like Plex.

Here are the prices for a few 4K Blu-Ray films/TV shows - according to Amazon.

Already, that is potentially cheaper than going to the cinema, provided you have a setup you are happy with at home.

Is going to the cinema right for you?

Let me be clear, you do need to do a bit of research. A lot of players claim to play 4K Blu-Rays but can't and instead upscale standard ones - with 'Smart' functionality which allows them to do 4K Netflix - but seriously what TV is sold nowadays without Netflix integration built in?
They are expensive too, often in the range of £250 to £400 and above.
This is why the Xbox One S/X make a lot of sense if you are after a way to watch 4K films at home without using the internet - you also get a games console thrown in!

So, is actually going to the cinema still economical?

If you like to be around people (and can tolerate adverts) when you watch films then, yes.
If not or don't really care, then doing it yourself could be a cheaper way of watching your favourite films and you can watch them again in the future for free!

To recap, in my example going to the cinema could cost at least £33.30 per film.
And watching it in 4K at home (once you have a setup you are comfortable with) can cost between £15 and £25 per film.
As I mentioned you can also watch online content like Netflix/Amazon/YouTube/etc. in 4K too.

It's up to you.

4K TV sales are growing quite quickly and the number of people with Xbox One S/X's is also high. This means a lot of people could have their own cinema experience at home.
Similar to the evolution that happened when HD came out, it will take a while, but eventually all TVs sold will at least be 4K capable with the price coming down to match. We are already a few years into that cycle.

Remember also that you don't have to watch everything in 4K. Full HD 1080p might be enough for you and also save you money.

Cinema tickets aren't showing much sign of decreasing in price, while more and more 4K content is being produced - both online and in physical form.

I won't stop going to cinema just because I can watch at home, but for films I really enjoyed I will consider purchasing them and being able to watch them whenever I want at home, with no adverts, for free.

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