Best Movie Package in 2021: Sky Cinema or Streaming Film Sites?
There is nothing quite like getting sucked in to a good film. For that, you need to have the best movie package for your home. While Sky Cinema has reigned supreme as the movie TV package of choice for many a film loving home over the years, streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ have undeniably built up a compelling offering for many movie lovers.
Best Movie TV Package in 2021
Sky Cinema, formerly known as Sky Movies, is no longer the only option for enjoying the magic of the movies at home. The movie TV package landscape has significantly changed and Sky is no longer at the helm.
Serious film contenders have appeared in the form of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. These streaming companies aren't just licensing movies but also producing and optioning new movies exclusive to their platforms. This is inevitably changing how we enjoy films at home.
What kind of cinema are you after?
The genres of films and how you intend to enjoy your home cinema experience will largely determine what the best movie package is for you. Before you look through the various options below, think of the following questions to better understanding your movie package needs.
- Are you after the latest film releases?
- Are you into a specific movie genre like horror or comedy?
- Are you huge superhero or film franchise fan, such as Star Wars or Marvel movies?
- Do you have young children?
- Are you into arthouse or independent cinema?
Sky Cinema: A Relic?
Sky Cinema, known as Sky Movies before 2016, is truly the last contender standing in the movie TV package domain. It might seem easy to dismiss Sky Cinema as a relic of a bygone satellite and cable TV age but its 10 film channels sorted by genre and audience beg to differ. Take a look below at the main Sky Movies channels, along with some examples of films they show:
- Sky Cinema Action: The Amazing Spiderman, Jumanji: The Next Level, Total Recall
- Sky Cinema Family: Step Up, My Friend The Dolphin, The Witches
- Sky Cinema Premiere: Angel Has Fallen, Death of Me, Promising Young Woman
- Sky Cinema Greats: Jackie Brown, Moon, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
- Sky Cinema Sci-Fi Horror: Candyman, Terminator 3, Interstellar
- Sky Cinema Hits: Mad Max:Fury Road, Pokemon Detective Pikachu, The World's End
- Sky Cinema Select: The Queen, The Aviator, The Theory of Everything
- Sky Cinema Comedy: Evan Almighty, Bridesmaids, Alan Partridge:Alpha Papa
- Sky Cinema Drama: Erin Brokovich, The Color Purple, The Theory of Everything
- Sky Cinema Thriller: Carlito's Way, The Negotiator, The Ghost
- Sky Cinema Animation: Trolls World Tour, The Secret Life of Pets 2, Moomins and the Winter Wonderland
In addition to the above HD movie channels, Sky Cinema includes a library of 1000 films to stream at your convenience. However, if you're looking for the latest releases having Sky Cinema means that you also get a 20% discount off any Sky Store Rental.
This hybrid movie TV package, with both premium TV channels and streaming options, doesn't come cheap but the good news is that there are many ways to get the Sky Cinema movie package and not just through Sky.
|Sign Up Option||Monthly Price||Key Details|
|Sky Cinema through Sky||£36 p/m||Includes Netflix and Sky TV. Up to £49 one-off set up fee|
|Sky Cinema through NOW||£11.99 p/m||No Contract. Accessible through many streaming devices. Add £3 extra every month for HD boost.|
|Sky Cinema through BT TV||£22 p/m||24 month contract. £29.99 Upfront. Includes Entertainment Package|
|Sky Cinema through Virgin Media||£21 p/m||Add £6 p/m to upgrade to 4K UHD quality|
If you are purely interested in watching what Sky Cinema has to offer on its movie package, Sky itself is probably the worst way to sign up for it. With Sky, Sky Cinema is always an add-on to their basic entertainment package and there are no extra savings to be had if you just want the cinema channels and nothing else.
The most cost effective way to get the Sky Cinema movie package is actually through NOW (formerly Now TV) which gives you the option to just get the cinema membership for a lower monthly price and without a contract commitment. The only thing to be aware of is that you need to pay a small extra to upgrade to HD quality.
The BT TV and Virgin Media options offer nothing of note over the NOW movie TV package and are more restrictive with regards to contracts, choice and fees.
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Renting Movies Online
No matter what the best movie package is for you, there are several options to rent the latest film releases soon after they appear in cinemas, right from the comfort of your couch. What all the following online movie rental options have in common is that you pay only for the films you rent and you will have a limited time to watch them or keep them in your queue.
Needless to say, any film rentals are paid for on top of any monthly film package you are already paying for.
Movie rentals on the Sky store include a wide range of new films as well as older releases. They can be watched on your Sky box as well as recent computers, mobile phones, tablets and certain streaming boxes (Roku and NOW TV).
Pricing for Sky store film rentals will vary depending on how old the movie is as well as current promotional offers. However rentals can reach as high as £15.99 for same day cinema exclusive releases such as with the Trolls World Tour film.
After initiating a Sky Store rental from your Sky box, you'll have seven days to start watching and then once you've started you get 24 hours to finish it. That number increases if you had downloaded it first.
Virgin Media Store
Virgin Media Store has both films for sale and to rent digitally. If you want to rent a film from Virgin Media, head on to the On Demand section.
Recent releases will be priced at £3.99 but there will also be a selection of older movies with discounted rental prices. Once you start watching your movie you will have up to 48 hours to finish it.
BT TV Store
BT TV Store film rentals are only available to BT broadband customers who also have a BT TV package. The selection of recent releases to rent is also suspiciously similar to what is on offer on the Virgin Media and Sky Store.
With Now offering their movie package through Sky Cinema, the choice of film rentals is therefore very similar both in terms of choice and functionality.
Rakuten TV takes a unique approach to online movie rentals. Instead of requiring customers to use other services such as broadband or to have a TV package, you sign up for free Rakuten TV account and then pay for the movie rentals.
Rakuten has a wide selection of film rentals, from the latest cinema releases to older favourites. Rental prices are competitive with the online movie rental services from the likes of Virgin Media and Sky but Rakuten has an ace up its sleeve.
In addition to the paid rentals, Rakuten TV also offers free rentals which only require you to sign up for a free account. There is a surprising amount of free rentals, ranging from somewhat recent feature films to sports documentaries. This is definitely a pleasant surprise which puts Rakuten TV in the running as one of the best free streaming sites out there.
Sky Cinema or Streaming?
With the recent proliferation of film streaming options from big names like Disney and Apple, Sky Cinema is now the outlier. While Sky Cinema does have a small on demand library of films that you can stream at your leisure as well as online rentals, its main model is to provide a number of themed channels with rotating movie programming every day of the week.
Meanwhile all of Sky Cinema competitors, both big and small, have opted for an on-demand online model where customers pick what movies they want to watch at their own convenience. All these on-demand streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, rely on providing a library of films that customers can access at any time and pick what to watch for a flat monthly subscription.
With Sky Cinema, you turn to the channel you want to watch based on what type of film or movie genre you are after. Either you fall on a film that is in the middle of playing or you wait for a film to start. What Sky Cinema and the paid streaming services it competes against have in common is that neither will have third party advertising interrupting the film.
Sky Cinema is a great option if you are the sort of person who just wants to sit on the couch and put a film on without having to choose something. You can flip the channels to your heart's content without actually having to choose a specific film to watch. If the idea of having to pick from thousands of films on Netflix fills you with dread then the old school simplicity of regular TV programming might be more comforting. However, it's going to cost you.
The cheapest way to get Sky Cinema is through NOW, and even then you could conceivably get two streaming services for the same price, giving you access to more on demand movie choices than Sky.
Additionally with Netflix, Amazon and Apple getting into the film production business directly to boost their exclusive film offerings, Sky Cinema is looking more and more antiquated.
Our view is that if you are someone who really enjoys film, you are better off looking at a mixture of on-demand streaming subscriptions and maybe Rakuten TV for the occasional new cinema blockbuster rental. That gives you flexibility of having a deep back catalogue of films to choose from and then the option to rent if something new catches your fancy.
Film Streaming Options
On demand streaming services cater to a variety of audiences with online movie libraries that are constantly evolving - with films being added and sometimes removed to keep things fresh. With that in mind, take a look at the options below to see which one offers the best movie package for you.
Netflix is probably the oldest online streaming service. As such, they are also very much involved in film production directly and have had a hand in a string of exclusive hits such as Enola Holmes, Bright and Thunder Force with big name Hollywood stars.
At the same time, Netflix has a significant film back catalogue that covers both mainstream cinema, international releases and animation. It's clear that Netflix wants to provide the widest selection of film entertainment for a variety of audiences.
Pricing ranges from £5.99 a month to watch any movie in standard definition on one device up to £13.99 a month to watch in 4K UHD across four devices simultaneously. The price only affects the image quality and on how many devices you can watch at the same time. There is also a middle tier for £9.99 a month where you can watch in HD across two devices at the same time. No matter what pricing option you go for you get access to the full catalogue of movies.
Rather ironically, Netflix is bundled when you get Sky Cinema through Sky itself.
Amazon Prime Video
If you already use Amazon Prime for your online shopping deliveries, the good news is that you already have access to Prime Video. Once more you have a wide range of films available to stream at your convenience.
Amazon has also been getting more involved in film production, attracting big name talent to some unique projects. Household names like Daniel Radcliffe, Benedict Cumberbatch and Riz Ahmed appear in exclusive movies only available on Prime Video.
Prime Video pricing is straightforward. If you already have Amazon Prime, then you have complimentary access to all the free Prime Video content. If you don't regularly shop at Amazon but still want to be able to stream Prime Video, you can get a Prime Video only subscription for £5.99 per month.
On top of the extensive Prime Video library of films and series, Amazon Prime Video also has an online movie rental service where you pay an additional rental fee for more recent movie releases that are not included in the Prime Video subscription.
There are also some options to get Amazon Prime Video for free through certain broadband providers like Origin Broadband and Pop Telecom which have promotional deals when you sign up for broadband through them.
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Disney has been a late entrant when it comes to online streaming but they definitely have stuck the landing. Disney now controls the Marvel Superhero movie franchise as well as the Star Wars series of films. This is of course in addition to all the Pixar and Disney films the company is known for.
This means that any new Marvel and Star Wars films will be available exclusively through the Disney+ streaming service moving forward. Disney Plus currently costs £7.99 a month. It is also available for a whole year for a flat £79.90 fee which does save you some money overall.
Apple started out by providing a streaming box called Apple TV to make it easy for people to watch iTunes film purchases on their home TVs. Over time, the Apple TV functionality expanded allowing people to also view their Netflix and Amazon Prime content. Now Apple has thrown its hat in the streaming movie ring with Apple TV+.
Apple TV+ does not require an Apple device for you to access it. Apple has expanded access to its streaming service to the following devices:
- Amazon Fire TV
- Google TV
- Samsung Smart TV
- LG Smart TV
While Apple TV started off by producing its own limited series, it is also expanding its film offering. Recently, it has been able to attract Tom Hanks and Tom Holland for exclusive big budget historical and drama feature film productions.
At £4.99 a month, Apple TV+ is very competitively priced, especially with the continued expansion of their film catalogue. If you are planning to buy a new Apple device, it's worth noting that you get a free one year subscription to Apple TV+.
Additionally, Apple has partnered with EE in the UK so that you can get a TV Broadband package that is bundled with an Apple TV+ subscription as well as the Apple TV 4K box to connect to your home TV.
Streaming Movies for Film Buffs
All the above movie packages are great for people who are looking for mainstream cinema. But what if you're a real film buff? Namely, someone who enjoys independent or arthouse movies. You might be wondering if there are any modern alternatives to local arthouse cinemas or small video rental stores with an international or independent film section.
Fear not, here are streaming options for real movie buffs to put together the best movie package out there.
Mubi advertises itself as a purveyor of "hand-picked cinema". They add a new film title drawn from international, independent or arthouse cinema every day. If you are looking for older films or more underground movies, this could be a good option for you. Mubi is priced at £9.99 for the month to month subscription, although they also have yearly lump-sum payment which does save you over £40 a year.
BFI stands for the British Film Institute and it offers a £4.99 a month subscription to access a strong collection of critically acclaimed cinema, from the earliest days of film making to current releases. This subscription is also a great option for those who are looking to watch independent British cinema.
By signing up for a BFI Player subscription, you are also choosing to support an important British Arts institution that works to preserve the art of cinema for the British public.
Funimation and Crunchyroll
Funimation and Crunchyroll are online streaming services that specialise providing Anime, East Asian animation and media to English speaking audiences. Funimation specialises in dubbed versions of the original content while Crunchyroll has a wider catalogue of subtitled Anime and East Asian dramas. Crunchyroll is also known for producing original content.
While these two streaming services serve a somewhat niche audience, it is worth noting that both Netflix and Amazon are licensing as well as producing their own original feature length animations - including Anime. It will be interesting to see how that impacts the animation industry. However, for the time being, Funimation and Crunchyroll are the preferred destination for anime fans in the UK.