1. They don't like to answer the phone.
2. Most of them have half price all day on Tuesdays, sometimes on Wednesdays, and deals in the morning and late at night.
3. Many have VIP areas with reclining leather seats, lovepods for couples, and other first-class amenities.
3. Prices in this guide assume that you're paying in cash. Not many people do that these days. If you want a cheaper ticket -- up to 50% off -- at a regular time, you gotta use an app like Gewara, Taobao Movie, or WeChat. We have a guide for that.
4. Shanghai Film Corporation (SFC) is massive. They've not only been making movies, animations, and documentaries for decades, but they own hundreds of theaters around the country. Smart.
5. Sometimes people behave poorly, but usually not as bad as people at the gym.
Cathay Theatre (上海国泰电影院)
Deals: Tuesdays and Wednesdays, tickets half price all day. Really cheap prices (35-40rmb) on select movies daily before noon.
Features: Historic building; 3D & 4K.
Old-school cinema built back in 1930 right on Huaihai Lu, then renovated in 2003. Screens are 3D and 4K. Nice staff, some English speakers. Ticket prices depend on time of day: morning 30/40rmb, afternoon 70/80rmb, evening 80/90rmb. These are readily available at half price via apps like Gewara. Sweet popcorn only.
Lansheng Cinema (上海兰生典尚影院)
Deals: Half price on Tuesdays and Wednesdays;
Features: Historic building; 3D; VIP Rooms (private screenings); 4D; Dolby
Another classic theater on Huaihai Lu, built in 1930 (used to be called the Huangjin Da Xiyuan). If you've got money to burn and wanna entertain friends, they've got two private VIP rooms where you can watch any movie you want, or even sing KTV. If you're paying cash, tickets are pretty expensive (like 120-180rmb), but they're less than half that if you buy online. Not that modern, but that's not why you're coming here.
Palace IAPM (百丽宫影城-环贸IAPM店)
Deals: Heavily discounted tickets before 12pm and after 10pm daily, excluding IMAX films. Half price tickets all day on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Features: IMAX; VIP room; Midnight premieres.
As of 2016, this is one of the nicest and most futuristic places to see a movie in Shanghai. It's big: 6 halls and 1046 seats total. Facilities are great, with comfortable theater areas, and clean and comfortable 3D glasses. They've got RealD technology, if you're into that. That said, it's pretty expensive. You're looking at 100-180rmb for a ticket without an app like Gewara, or about half that with one. The VIP room has 50 seats, and they also do midnight premieres for Hollywood blockbusters. They also have a partnership with the Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF). Snacks are more expensive here than at most other cinemas in town. You've got a lot of restaurants, bars, shops, and transportation nearby, too, like metro lines 1, 10, and 12 and a ton of buses.
Broadband International Cineplex (万裕国际影城-淮海店)
Deals: Half price before noon daily; half price on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Features: Cheap; 3D.
Cheap modern cinema on the sixth floor of Times Square Plaza, with four halls and 714 seats. The best part about this place is that the gap between the seats is really big, so you won't bother anyone when you're trying to squeeze though. No IMAX or VIP, just 3D. Tickets are 80-100rmb, but you get them really cheap via an app like Gewara -- like 28rmb for a 3D film. Popcorn is sweet. Cash only. Bonus: there's a 24-hour McDonald's just across the street.
Grand Cinema (大光明电影院)
Deals: Half price on Tuesdays and Wednesdays; cheap tickets daily before noon and after 9.45pm (around 45rmb).
Features: Historic building; massive hall; VIP room; 3D & 4K.
Huge, super old-school stand-alone gem with lots of marble flooring and a grand staircase, built in 1928 by Hungarian architect Laszlo Hudec who designed a ton of famous buildings in Shanghai (including Wukang Mansion). Tons of history here -- all the newest technology came here first back in the day. The place is huge, with 1794 seats spread among 6 halls, including the massive, two-tiered main room. There's one VIP room with 25 seats. They have 3D and 4K; no IMAX. Tickets are 80-120rmb (around half that with an app like Gewara), and cheaper in the morning Tuesday and Wednesday tickets are half price. Sweet popcorn only. Cash only.
Peace Cinema (和平影都)
Deals: Discounts all day on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Discounted movies at 10am daily (e.g. some popular movie in IMAX 3D might be half price, or maybe they're just showing some 2D movie for 45rmb).
Features: IMAX; Dolby; Mall food court; Can be cheap
Awkwardly designed but popular cinema, with a total of 1069 seats in six rooms. Very crowded, but they've got IMAX and Dolby and it's in People's Square so that's to be expected. There is also a Hershey's store right next to the ticket booth. The rest of Raffle's City mall is right there -- Carl's Jr. is in the basement. Popcorn is sweet and will cost you 12-25rmb. Ticket prices vary wildly based on technology, popularity, and time of day. Newer flicks in IMAX 3D at prime time could cost up to 180rmb without an app (a bit less with), but 2D movies are often around 50rmb. They show discounted films at 10am every day, too. If you're looking to see movies like Star Wars in 2D because your eyes don't dig the high-tech, this is an option.
Xinguang Cinema (新光影艺苑)
Showtimes: Gewara (they only sell tickets for live shows here, not films)
Deals: Half price on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Features: Historic building; live theater; 3D
Cute old cinema / theater with local community vibes, built in 1930. Limited English language films. 380 seats, no VIP, no IMAX. They do a lot of Chinese-language live theater here. One large screening room, only two or three showings per day. Tickets are cheap here -- like 50rmb a ticket. Nothing fancy, just vibes and characters. They're the only cinema we know of that makes you put a deposit down for 3D glasses.
UME Xintiandi (UME新天地国际影城)
Deals: Tuesdays, half price tickets before 7pm. Wednesdays, guys buy one ticket, ladies get in free. Discounted tickets before noon on weekends.
Features: VIP rooms; occasional movie stars; 3D
Big cinema in a Xintiandi mall is where stars often come to walk the red carpet for Hollywood premieres. George Clooney was here in 2015. They show English and Chinese movies in big rooms with jewel toned velvet decor. Six halls with 1026 seats total. Tickets are 100-130rmb, or about half that with an app like Gewara. On Tuesdays, tickets are half price before 7pm. Wednesday is Ladies' Night (guy purchases one full price ticket, the lady gets in free). Saturday and Sunday tickets are half price before noon. They have sweet and salty popcorn, and a large is 28rmb. It's a great place to see 3D movies, and the seats in Salon 1 are adjustable. They've also got some VIP rooms with leather chairs where you can lay down. They sell a lot of official merch in here too. The place is packed most of the time, but the crowd at the midnight premieres are mostly just trendy young kids with bad manners rather than diehard fans. Sadly, the bathrooms close at 11pm.
Premiere Cinemas Kerry Center (百美汇影城)
Deals: Half price on Tuesdays; half price tickets before noon.
Features: Clean; 3D; good location.
Modern, clean, new (opened in 2015) cinema in the Jing'an Kerry Center. Comfy seats. Five screens and 726 seats total. No IMAX, which is sad. One of the salons is huge, then there's several smaller salons that are really comfortable. No VIP seats. Tickets are 100-150rmb without an app like Gewara, or 40-60% off with one. They do two Cokes and a popcorn for 50rmb. Restrooms are clean. Overall, the venue experience is pretty similar to that of IAPM, without the IMAX, and you're right next to Nanjing Lu and Jing'an -- tons of food, drink, and transportation options around here.
Other Cinemas In Jing'an: Shanghai Studio City Cinema
Hengshan Cinema (SFC上影 新衡山店)
Deals: Half price all day on Tuesday; half price for shows starting before 12pm and after 10pm daily.
Features: Historic building; 3D; cheaper tickets; good F&B options nearby.
Just across from Xujiahui park, this one has more of an independent cinema vibe. Built back in 1951, it doesn't feel corporate (despite being owned by SFC) and it's not in a mall. The three rooms are small-ish but comfortable, and the third room has VIP seats for couples. No IMAX, but this one is a bit cheaper than the big cinemas; tickets are around 100-120rmb without using an app, and half that with one. It's easy to access because a taxi can drop you off right in front. Lots of dining and drinking options on this block too -- Pistolera is just next door for a pre-movie dinner, and Park Tavern is there for post-movie drinks. On the negative side, they don't sell beer, but no one is gonna stop you from packing a couple tall boys in your coat or bag.
Yonghua Grand Gateway (SFC上影 永华店)
Deals: Half price tickets on Tuesdays; half price before noon and after 10pm.
Features: IMAX 3D; 4K; 4D; VIP rooms.
This SFC cinema in the Grand Gateway mall offers a mixed experience. On the one hand, they're the only cinema in Shanghai with IMAX 3D, 4K and 4D. Seating is stadium style and the sound is good. Then there is a VIP theater with only 32 reclining leather seats. Welcome to first class. There are downsides though: the IMAX screen isn't that big, the place is crowded most of the time, service is poor, the cleaning lady often comes in before the movie is over, and the exit lights are bright enough to distract from the film. And the popcorn is sweet. You're looking at 100-180rmb per ticket during normal times, or half that with an app like Gewara. Tickets are half price on Tuesdays, and student discounts are available.
Other Cinemas In Xujiahui: SFC Metro City
Xinhua Film Art Center (SFC上影 上海影城店)
Deals: Discounts before 12pm daily; half price all day Monday and Tuesday.
Features: Old-school vibes; SIFF; more independent films; huge screen with Dolby Atmos; 3D; VIP rooms
The cinema for the Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF). This place has a '90s kinda vibe, with lots of marble flooring, massive screens, and old-school bathrooms. There's nine rooms with 1058 seats total. Tickets at normal times are 90-180rmb, or half that with an app like Gewara. If you're into sound, they have the world's second largest screen with Dolby Atmos. This place is good for 3D movies. Due to the SIFF connection, they show more local independent and international films that most places in town, and they hold press conferences and director Q&As when the annual event happens in June. The audience is more polite than at a lot of theaters, too. That said, the theater does have noticeably more huangniu (ticket scalpers) that most theaters in town, who can be annoying or hilarious / fascinating, depending on your perspective. Also, you've got CityShop just downstairs if the snacks in the theater don't do it for you. They also have a discount on Mondays and Tuesdays
Other Cinemas In Changning: Cloud Nine Cinema
Palace IFC (国金百丽宫影院)
Deals: Half price tickets on Tuesdays; half price before noon.
Features: VIP rooms; 3D; Nice place
Definitely a nice place to catch a flick in Lujiazui, the IFC branch of Palace is even nicer than the one in IAPM, as of 2016, anyway. However, unlike the IAPM branch, they don't do midnight premieres of blockbusters. Facilities are great, with comfortable theater areas, and clean and comfortable 3D glasses. They also have a partnership with the Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF). Tickets and snacks here are more expensive than most other cinemas in town, though -- expect to pay at least 100rmb for a seat. You've got a lot of food options and transportation nearby, too.
Cinema China Film (中影国际影城 - 上海长泰广场店)
Deals: Discounts before noon and after 10pm.
Features: DMAX & Dolby Atmos; Biggest "Giant Screen" in Shanghai; Love seats
If you live or work out near the Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park, you're in luck. Kind of. This theater near the Jinke Lu metro station on Line 2 has DMAX equipped with 3rd-gen Dolby Atmos, two Barco-4K32B projectors (ultra bright), the biggest Giant Screen in Shanghai, and, most impressively, 90 love seats in Salons 5 & 6. Seats are comfortable and tickets are cheap-ish. You're looking at 80-120rmb during normal times, with heavy discounts of at least 50% via online apps. Of course, it's real far from downtown and the facilities, hardware, and service are far from consistent.
Other Cinemas In Pudong: Shanghai Stellar Cinema City (Super Brand Mall)
Hongkou: Stellar International Cineplex Hongkou
Yangpu / Wujiaochang: Wanda International Cinema Shanghai
Baoshan: UME International Cineplex Baoshan
All photos by Rhiannon Florence. Research by Rhiannon, Jin, Elie, and Ian. Words by Editor. This is a living document -- if you've got knowledge and wisdom about movie theaters here, leave it in the comments.