Sky Cinema

This article is about the film channels in the UK and Ireland. For other uses, see Sky Cinema (disambiguation).
"Sky Movies" redirects here. For the channels in New Zealand, see Sky Movies (New Zealand).
Sky Cinema
Launched 5 February 1989
Owned by Sky plc
Audience share 0.13% (Action & Adventure)
0.08% (Comedy)
0.08% (Crime & Thriller)
0.21% (Disney)
0.06% (Drama & Romance)
0.16% (Family)
0.11% (Greats)
0.11% (Hits)
0.16% (Premiere)
0.03% (Premiere +1)
0.07% (Sci-Fi & Horror)
0.03% (Select) (September 2015 (2015-09), BARB)
Replaced The Power Station on the BSB service
Sister channel(s) Challenge,
Real Lives,
Sky 1,
Sky 2,
Sky Arts,
Sky Atlantic,
Sky Cinema Box Office,
Sky Living,
Sky News,
Sky Sports,
Sky Sports F1,
Sky Sports News HQ
Sky Channels 301 – 312 (SD/HD)
Channels 314, 330 – 337, 339, 340 (SD)
On Demand
Virgin Media
Channels 401 – 412
Channels 431, 433 – 442 (HD)
Sky Anytime
Virgin Media Ireland Channels 301 – 321
Channels 331 – 341 (HD)
TalkTalk TV Channels 501 – 511 (SD)
On Demand
BT Channels 501 – 511 (SD)
On Demand
Streaming media
Sky Go Watch live (UK & Ireland only)
Virgin TV Anywhere Watch live (UK only)
Now TV Watch live (UK only)

Sky Cinema (formerly Sky Movies) is the collective name for the premium subscription television film channels operated in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland by Sky plc. The UK and Ireland channels have over 5 million subscribers, via satellite, cable and IPTV.[1] In addition to the television channels, it has an interactive 'red button' service, a website ( and in 2005 launched a 3G mobile service via Vodafone.

In 2016, Sky plc rebranded its television film channel operations under one single Sky Cinema branding: on 8 July 2016, the channels in the UK and Ireland were rebranded from Sky Movies to Sky Cinema; on 22 September in Germany and Austria, the Sky Cinema brand (originally used for the flagship channel) was extended to other channels in the group formerly known as Sky Film; the Italian Sky Cinema channels followed suit on 5 November by adopting the brand packages introduced in the UK and Ireland earlier.


1989–98 Early years

Sky Movies was originally a single film channel offered as part of Sky's original 4-channel package on the Astra 1A satellite on 5 February 1989. The first film shown on the channel was Dirty Dancing. Prior to its launch, Sky Movies signed first-run deals with 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Domestic Pay TV, Cable and Network Features, Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Orion Pictures and Buena Vista Distribution Co.

After one year of broadcasting free-to-air, in February 1990[2] it became the first Sky channel to scramble its signal, using a card-encryption system called VideoCrypt which rendered the picture totally obscured to anyone attempting to view it without a decoder and smart card.

When Sky merged with rival British Satellite Broadcasting it acquired BSB's The Movie Channel. With the launch of the second Astra satellite (Astra 1B) in 1991 The Movie Channel become part of the Sky package. The first film shown was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Similarly, Sky Movies was made available to viewers on BSB's old satellite on 8 April 1991, replacing music channel The Power Station. From the re-launch of the channel under BSkyB, The Movie Channel's ident was made by PDI, and heavily based on NBC's film opening used from 1987 to 1993.

During 1991, Sky Movies started broadcasting for 24 hours per day.[3] For a while in the early 1990s, the channel carried various non films premium content such as live boxing, music concerts and WWF wrestling. This was because at this time all of Sky's other channels, including Sky Sports, were shown free-to-air and during this period the channel was often referred to as Sky Movies Plus. When Sky Sports first became a pay channel on 1 September 1992, Sky Movies stopped showing non-films related programming.

On 1 October 1992, The Comedy Channel was replaced with Sky Movies Gold, a "classic movies" channel. It was added as a 3-channel Sky Movies package. Rocky was the first film shown on the network.

Sky Movies Screen logo with "Screen 2"

The two main channels were rebranded under a common brand on 1 November 1997. Sky Movies became Sky Movies Screen 1 and the Movie Channel became Sky Movies Screen 2.[4]

The Digital era

After a rebrand on 10 September 1998, Sky Movies Screen 1 became Sky Moviemax, Sky Movies Screen 2 became Sky Premier, and Sky Movies Gold was renamed Sky Cinema.[5]

The launch of Sky Digital from the new Astra 28.2°E satellite position in October 1998 was accompanied by a dramatic expansion of channels.[6] Sky Premier 2 through 4, Sky Moviemax 2 through 5 and Sky Cinema 2, along with Sky Premier Widescreen – at the time, the only channel devoted to showing widescreen films, were all launched exclusively on digital satellite.

1 July 2002 saw yet another re-branding exercise. The Sky Premier channels were renamed Sky Movies Premier, the Sky Moviemax channels became Sky Movies Max and the Sky Cinema channels became Sky Movies Cinema.

Eventually in June 2003, Sky listened to demands for more widescreen films. The Sky Movies Premier Widescreen channel was closed and the majority of films on the remaining channels were shown in widescreen.

2003–07: Rebrand

On 1 November 2003, the Sky Movies Premier and Sky Movies Max channels were all brought under one banner as Sky Movies 1 through 9. At the same time, Sky Movies Cinema 1 and 2 became Sky Cinema 1 and 2.

From 30 January 2006, Sky Movies 9 and the new Sky Movies 10 started broadcasting from 5 pm to 3 am. They were PIN-protected, meaning that for the first time 15 rated films were able to be shown as early as 5 pm. With the launch of Sky HD, the two channels were also available in a high definition format.

2007–16: Sky Movies goes categorised

Sky Movies logo from 2010 to 2016

From 4 April 2007, Sky Movies channels were revamped with each channel covering a different genre. Sky Cinema 1 and 2 merged to become Sky Movies Classics.[7] The names of the new channels became Sky Movies Premiere, Sky Movies Premiere +1, Sky Movies Comedy, Sky Movies Action & Thriller, Sky Movies Family, Sky Movies Drama, Sky Movies Classics, Sky Movies Sci-Fi & Horror, Sky Movies Modern Greats, Sky Movies Indie, Sky Movies HD1 and Sky Movies HD2. Three of the HD channels have launched already before the other.

Sky later made Sky Movies HD1 and HD2 available to subscribers without HDTV equipment through two channels simulcasting the same content in SDTV format. These channels were known as Sky Movies SD1 and SD2. These channels were renamed Sky Movies Screen 1 and Screen 2 in February 2008. The HDTV channels were renamed Sky Movies Screen 1 HD and Screen 2 HD accordingly.[8]

As of 20 March 2008, an additional high definition film channel called Sky Movies Premiere HD which is a high definition simulcast version of the current Sky Movies Premiere channel was added after many requests for the channel from Sky HD subscribers.

Sky also announced that in October 2008, they would launch six new high-definition simulcast channels called Sky Movies Action/Thriller HD, Sky Movies Sci-Fi/Horror HD, Sky Movies Drama HD, Sky Movies Modern Greats HD, Sky Movies Family HD and Sky Movies Comedy HD.[9] This means that almost all Sky Movies channels are broadcast in both standard- and high-definition, except for Sky Movies Premiere +1, Sky Movies Classics and Sky Movies Indie which remained standard-definition only until Sky Movies Indie HD launched on 26 October 2009.[10][11]

On 26 March 2010, a new Sky Movies Showcase channel replaced Sky Movies Screen 1, carrying box sets, collections and seasons. Sky Movies also reshuffled its bouquet of ten channels to achieve greater "clarity" for subscribers. The changes included Sky Movies Action & Thriller becoming Sky Movies Action & Adventure, Sky Movies Drama becoming Sky Movies Drama & Romance and Sky Movies Screen 2 becoming Sky Movies Crime & Thriller.[12] The Sky Movies HD channels launched on the Virgin Media platform on 2 August 2010.[13]

Sky Movies Classics HD launched on 9 August 2010, exclusively on Sky.[14] The channel was added to Virgin Media on 4 October 2011.

Smallworld Cable added the Sky Movies HD channels to their line-up in the first quarter of 2012,[15] followed by UPC Ireland on 16 August 2012.[16]

On 28 March 2013, Sky Movies Disney was launched, effectively replacing Disney Cinemagic, as part of a multi-year film output deal between Sky and the Walt Disney Company.[17] Sky Movies Disney marks the first time that Disney has been involved in a co-branded linear films channel anywhere in the world.[18] New Disney movies are available on Sky Movies Disney around six months after they have ended their cinema run. To facilitate the channel, Sky Movies Classics ceased broadcasting, while Sky Movies Modern Greats was rebranded as Sky Movies Greats and Sky Movies Indie became Sky Movies Select.[19][20] The content of the three former brands was merged into Select and Greats.[21]

2016-: Rebrand to Sky Cinema

On 15 June 2016, Sky announced that Sky Movies would rebrand as Sky Cinema on 8 July. This change aligns the service's naming with those of Sky's film services in other regions, in consort with Sky plc's takeover of Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia. To compete with subscription video-on-demand services, Sky announced that the re-branded service would premiere a new film each day, and that it would expand the service's on-demand library. Sky also announced plans to launch a 4K ultra-high-definition feed later in the year.[22][23]

Television channels

As of October 2016, the current Sky Cinema channels are:

Temporary channels

Sky regularly gives one of their movie channels a temporary rebrand to air different kinds of seasonal or promotional programming. Examples of this have in the past included a channel dedicated to Christmas movies,[24] the James Bond film series[25] and the Academy Awards.[26]

Advertising and promotion

All of the Sky Cinema channels have always carried commercials between films, although the films themselves are uninterrupted. Additionally some strands and seasons are sponsored. All advertising for Sky Cinema (traditional & interactive ads, sponsorship, online) are handled by Sky Media – the advertising sales part of Sky.

Sky Cinema regularly sponsors the theatrical premieres of major film titles – such as Shrek 2, The Incredibles, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

A brief experiment with small on-screen logos in the early 1990s caused a storm of protest, and so films are now shown logo-free although the channels use logos over feature programmes like film Top Tens.

Sky Cinema is part of a "Rate Card" within the UK and Sky must supply other TV operators (such as Virgin Media) if they agree to pay a price set down by Sky.

Original production

Sky Cinema has a dedicated production team that produces over 100 hours of original film-related programming each year – including Sky Cinema News (a half hour weekly film release round-up), and UK/U.S. Box Office Top Tens. In addition, Sky's close relationships with the Film Studios means it regularly gets exclusive access on-set and to talent for one-off 'making-ofs', talent-based programming etc.

In 1998, Elisabeth Murdoch (who was Sky's director of channels and services at the time) advocated Sky setting up a film funding and production unit (similar to BBC Films and Film4 Productions). The result was Sky Pictures, which existed in order to invest in both low-budget and mainstream British films. However, following a lack of success and her decision to leave Sky and set up her own production company, Shine, the unit was scaled back and closed in 2001.

PIN protection

PIN protection of some films was brought in on 30 January 2006 to increase the range of films available to customers during the daytime.

Viewers are prompted for a PIN when trying to watch a programme rated 15 before 20:00, and when trying to watch a programme rated 18 before 22:00. This must be done live, so an unattended video recording will fail, or with Sky+ the PIN will need to be entered when watching the recording, or downloaded programme.

A Sky system has a 4-digit PIN code. The default Sky PIN code is the last four digits of the Sky viewing card. However, there are some disadvantages in the PIN system used; for example, a parent could give a 15-year-old the PIN in order for them to watch a programme rated 15, not realising that it also lets them watch programmes rated 18.

A similar system is used when watching the Sky Cinema channels through Virgin Media's cable TV service.


This section includes brandings of all of the three Sky Cinema channels and sub-channels until 3 April 2007.

1st Sky Movies channel

Brandings were:

2nd Sky Movies channel (Premier branding)

Brandings were:

3rd Sky Movies channel (Cinema branding)

Brandings were:


  1. Archived 29 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. "Sky Channels To Be Rebranded". Mediatel. 10 October 1997.
  5. "Second Sky Rebranding In Nine Months". Mediatel. 22 July 1998.
  6. "About Sky". Sky. Retrieved 29 July 2014. External link in |website= (help)
  7. "". Retrieved 19 May 2007.
  8. "Name tweak for Sky Movies channels". Digital Spy. 24 December 2007.
  9. "Sky launches seven new HD channels". Broadband TV News. 20 August 2008.
  10. "October On Indie". Sky Movies. Archived from the original on 13 February 2011.
  11. "Sky Movies Indie goes HD". Broadcast. 30 September 2009.
  12. "Sky Movies Screen 1 to become Showcase". Digital Spy. 18 February 2010.
  13. "Virgin Media Shows Its Competitors the Red Card". Virgin Media. 20 July 2010.
  14. "SKY MOVIES CLASSICS GOES HD". Sky Programme Information. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 February 2011. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  15. "Sky Sports, Sky Movies to launch in HD on Smallworld Cable". Digital Spy. 2 November 2011.
  16. "UPC adds 19 Sky channels in HD". TechCentral. 15 August 2012.
  17. "Sky Movies Disney: new channel to show UK TV film premieres". The Guardian. 21 February 2013.
  18. "Sky Movies Disney channel to launch on Sky in March". Digital Spy. 21 February 2013.
  19. "BARB Reported Channels". 22 March 2013. Sky Movies Classics will cease broadcasting on 27th March 2013.
  20. "BARB Reported Channels". 14 March 2013. Sky Movies Modern Greats will rebrand to Sky Movies Greats on 28th March, 2013. Sky Movies Indie will rebrand to Sky Movies Select on 28 March 2013.
  21. "Sky Movies: new channels, new line-up". Sky Movies. 4 March 2013.
  22. "Sky Movies rebrand to feature one premiere a day". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
  23. "Sky Movies is changing to Sky Cinema, but what has really changed?". 15 June 2016.
  24. Plunkett, John (15 October 2009). "Sky Movies lines up Christmas Channel". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  25. "James Bond gets own Sky Movies channel". The Guardian. 7 August 2012.
  26. "Oscars 2013 to air live on dedicated Sky Movies channel". Digital Spy. 1 February 2013.
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