Over 200,000 free cinema tickets are available to film fans this weekend (Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 June), as a thank you to National Lottery players for their vital contribution to film. 

The National Lottery Cinema Weekend, in partnership with the BFI, will take place at more than 500 cinema sites across the UK, including Cineworld, Odeon, Vue and other chains and independent cinemas from Thurso to Penzance, and from Coleraine to Cardiff.

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Players can use any National Lottery ticket, instant win game or scratchcard bought online or in retail (T&Cs apply) to claim a free pair of tickets to use at participating cinemas at www.cinemaweekend.co.uk.

This National Lottery Cinema Weekend, there’s something for everyone to see: from BFI National Lottery funded independent films like After Love, starring Joanna Scanlan, and British Independent Film Awards (BIFA) winning documentary The Reason I Jump, to blockbusters like the musical In the Heights, Disney’s Cruella and horror A Quiet Place Part II, as well as BAFTA and Oscar-winning drama The Father starring Sir Anthony Hopkins.

“As someone who loves the experience of watching films with other people, I’ve missed going to the cinema massively over this past year,” says Edith Bowman, broadcaster and spokesperson for the campaign. “Once the lights go down and the film starts playing on the big screen, everything else fades and you’re immersed into the beautiful world of that particular story, the filmmaker’s vision, the characters, the music – the communal experience is escapism in its purest form and provokes such wonderful conversation. I’m so excited about this amazing initiative from The National Lottery and the BFI and really hope film fans across the UK embrace this wonderful opportunity to support their local cinema.”

Dexter Fletcher, director of films such as Eddie The Eagle and the BAFTA-nominated Elton John biopic Rocketman, received National Lottery support through the BFI earlier in his career for the Scottish musical Sunshine on Leith. Fletcher says: “I’ll always be grateful and appreciative to the BFI and the National Lottery players for the support and funding they gave to the making of Sunshine on Leith. Low-budget films are the launch pad for aspiring film makers and enable new and experimental visionaries to come through, get their start and make their mark on a larger stage. Sunshine on Leith was an important stepping stone in my own journey as a director and the BFI and National Lottery helped make that possible. “

Welsh director Prano-Bailey Bond has experienced the benefits of the impact of National Lottery funding directly. Prano, who makes psychological horrors, was one of the emerging filmmakers chosen to be part of a BFI professional development programme that runs alongside with the BFI London Film Festival in 2017. Her debut feature film, Censor, which was backed by the BFI and Ffilm Cymru Wales using funds from the National Lottery, will be in cinemas later this year. Prano says: “The BFI has been incredibly supportive and I couldn’t have made Censor without their support. Having watched filmmakers I hugely admire come up through the BFI, such as Lynne Ramsay (the acclaimed Scottish director of films such as Morvern Callar and We Need to Talk about Kevin) and Sarah Gavron (director of recent BAFTA winner Rocks), it’s a dream to have had this backing for my debut feature. Thank you to all National Lottery players!”

Ben Roberts, Chief Executive at the BFI, says: “Thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players we’re able to support bold filmmakers, film education and training, the cinemas that mean so much to local communities, and enable UK audiences to see a wide range of films. Over the past year so many of us have missed that special communal experience of watching film on the big screen, so what better way to say ‘thank you’ than a free trip to the cinema! ”

The National Lottery has funded the making of more than 600 films, including award-winning and commercial hits across the years such as Bend It like Beckham, The King’s Speech and, more recently, seven-time BAFTA nominee Rocks. The funded films combined have won 15 Oscars, 109 BAFTAs and 29 awards at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. 

As a result of the money raised by The National Lottery for good causes, the BFI invests over £50 million a year to develop and support authentic UK filmmakers and films, enriching independent film culture with their original voices. 

The National Lottery Cinema Weekend is part of a wealth of activity in June to thank National Lottery players for contributing over £30 million each week to good causes across the UK.

Players of all National Lottery games must be aged 18 or over.