Sky Cinema

Sky Cinema (formerly Sky Movies) is a group of British pay television film channels owned by Sky, a division of Comcast. They have over 5 million subscribers on subscription TV as of 2006.[1] In the UK, Sky Cinema channels currently broadcast on the Sky satellite and Virgin Media cable platforms, and in addition Sky Cinema on demand content are available through these as well as via Now TV, BT TV and TalkTalk TV.

Sky Cinema
Launched5 February 1989 (5 February 1989)
Owned bySky
Picture format2160p UHDTV
(downscaled to 1080i and 16:9 576i for the HDTV and SDTV feeds, respectively)
Audience share0.13% (Action)
0.07% (Comedy)
0.07% (Thriller)
0.13% (Disney)
0.06% (Drama)
0.11% (Family)
0.17% (Greats)
0.1% (Hits)
0.21% (Premiere)
0.02% (Premiere +1)
0.08% (Sci-Fi & Horror)
0.04% (Select) (June 2019 (2019-06), BARB)
Formerly calledSky Movies (1989-2016)
ReplacedThe Power Station on the BSB service
Sister channel(s)Challenge,
Sky One,
Sky Two,
Sky Arts,
Sky Atlantic,
Sky Crime,
Sky News,
Sky Sports,
Sky Sports Box Office,
Sky Sports F1,
Sky Sports News,
Sky Sports Racing,
Sky Witness,
Sky Comedy
SkyChannels 301–312 (SD/HD)
Channels 842–852 (SD)
On Demand
Virgin Media (UK)Channels 401, 403–412 (HD)
Channel 402 (SD +1)
On Demand
Virgin Media (Ireland)Channels 301–309, 318, 320, 321
Channels 331–341 (HD)
TalkTalk TVChannels 501–511 (SD)
On Demand
BTChannels 501–511 (SD)
On Demand
Eir VisionChannels 301, 303–312 (SD)
Streaming media
Sky GoWatch live (UK & Ireland only)
Now TVWatch live (UK and Ireland only)
Virgin TV AnywhereWatch live (UK only)

In 2016, Sky 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 the German 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 1987's Dirty Dancing, starring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze. 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) on 15 April 1991, The Movie Channel become part of the Sky package. The first film shown was 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, starring Harrison Ford and Sean Connery. Similarly, Sky Movies was made available to viewers on BSB's old satellite on 8 April 1991, replacing the music channel The Power Station. From the re-launch of the channel under BSkyB, The Movie Channel's ident was made by Pacific Data Images 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 time in the early 1990s, the channel carried various non-film premium content such as live boxing, music concerts and World Wrestling Federation. 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-movie related programming.

On 1 October 1992, The Comedy Channel was replaced by Sky Movies Gold, a "classic movies" channel. It was added as a three-channel Sky Movies package. Rocky (starring Sylvester Stallone) was the first film shown on the network.

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]

1998–2003: 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 on 1 October 1998 was accompanied by a major expansion of channels.[6] Sky Premier and Sky MovieMax both added three multiplex channels each (Sky Premier 2 to 4 and Sky MovieMax 2 to 4), Sky Cinema launched Sky Cinema 2, and additionally, Sky Premier Widescreen – at the time, the only channel devoted to showing widescreen films - all launched exclusively on digital satellite. On 15 November 1998, Sky MovieMax and Sky Premier launched on the ONdigital terrestrial platform.[7] On 1 October 1999, Sky MovieMax 5 was launched.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

2003–07: Rebrand

On 1 November 2003, the Sky Movies Premier and Sky Movies Max channels were all brought under one banner as simply Sky Movies 1 to 9. At the same time, Sky Movies Cinema 1 and 2 became Sky Cinema 1 and 2.[11]

Sky Movies along with numerous other channels became available to watch via Sky Mobile TV in 2005, in partnership with Vodafone.[12]

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.[13]

2007–16: Sky Movies goes categorised

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.[14] 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.[15]

On 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.[16] 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.[17][18]

Sky Movies were rebranded as the part of the Sky channels rebranding on 1 January 2010.

On 26 March 2010, some Sky Movies channels were renamed, the 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.[19] The Sky Movies HD channels launched on the Virgin Media platform on 2 August 2010.[20]

Sky Movies Classics HD launched on 9 August 2010, exclusively on Sky.[21] 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,[22] followed by UPC Ireland on 16 August 2012.[23]

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.[24] Sky Movies Disney marked the first time that Disney has been involved in a co-branded linear films channel anywhere in the world.[25] New Disney films 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.[26][27] The content of the three former brands was merged into Select and Greats.[28]

2016–present: Rebrand to Sky Cinema and 4K UHD

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.[29][30] 4K films became available on 13 August 2016 for Sky Q customers with a 2TB box and Sky Cinema and multi-screen packs. 70 were available by the end of 2016.[31]

In January 2018, Sky announced a partnership with film distributor Altitude Film Distribution, with the launch of Sky Cinema Original Films. This new brand would distribute films for Sky Cinema's on-demand service, as-well as release them into cinemas. The first film under the new banner was the UK release of the animated film Monster Family. Other films like The Hurricane Heist, Anon, Final Score and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile have also been released as Sky Cinema Original Films.

Television channels

Sky regularly gives one or two of their Sky Cinema channels a temporary rebrand to air different kinds of seasonal or promotional programming. As of January 2018, the current Sky Cinema channels are:

Channels[32] Temporary channel re-brands[33][34]
Sky Cinema Premiere N/A
Sky Cinema Select Sky Cinema Classics
Sky Cinema DC Heroes
Sky Cinema Musicals
Sky Cinema Spooky
Sky Cinema Star Wars
Sky Cinema Superhero
Sky Cinema Westerns
Sky Cinema Will Smith
Sky Cinema Hits Sky Cinema DC Heroes
Sky Cinema Pixar
Sky Cinema Fast & Furious
Sky Cinema Matt Damon
Sky Cinema Pirates of the Caribbean
Sky Cinema Spooky
Sky Cinema Megahits
Sky Cinema Sci-fi & Horror Sky Cinema Halloween
Sky Cinema Monsters
Sky Cinema Sky-Fi
Sky Cinema Aliens
Sky Cinema Disney Sky Cinema Pixar
Sky Cinema Family Sky Cinema Animation
Sky Cinema Fairy Tales
Sky Cinema Action Sky Cinema Action Men
Sky Cinema Heroes
Sky Cinema Wonder Women
Sky Cinema Comedy Sky Cinema April Fools
Sky Cinema Adam Sandler
Sky Cinema Thriller Sky Cinema Bourne
Sky Cinema Heists
Sky Cinema Spies
Sky Cinema Drama Sky Cinema Christmas
Sky Cinema True Stories
Sky Cinema Valentine
Sky Cinema Weddings
Sky Cinema Julia Roberts
Sky Cinema Greats Sky Cinema Back to the Future
Sky Cinema Brits
Sky Cinema Denzel Washington
Sky Cinema Harry Potter
Sky Cinema Jurassic
Sky Cinema Oscars
Sky Cinema Pets
Sky Cinema Pirates of the Caribbean
Sky Cinema Spies
Sky Cinema Star Trek
Sky Cinema Star Wars
Sky Cinema Superheroes
Sky Cinema Tom Cruise
Sky Cinema Tom Hanks
Sky Cinema Villains
Sky Cinema Schools Out
Sky regularly gives their Sky Cinema channels temporary re-brands to air different kinds of seasonal or promotional programming.

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 productions

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/US 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.


  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)
  9. "1st for digital satellite TV news - What Satellite TV Online". 6 December 2003. Archived from the original on 6 December 2003. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
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  11. "1st for Sky Digital and satellite TV news - What Satellite & Digital TV Online - Freeview and Sky Digital". 6 December 2003. Archived from the original on 6 December 2003. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  12. "BSkyB and Vodafone link up to deliver mobile TV service". 31 October 2005.
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  14. "". Retrieved 19 May 2007.
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  16. "Sky launches seven new HD channels". Broadband TV News. 20 August 2008.
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  18. "Sky Movies Indie goes HD". Broadcast. 30 September 2009.
  19. "Sky Movies Screen 1 to become Showcase". Digital Spy. 18 February 2010.
  20. "Virgin Media Shows Its Competitors the Red Card". Virgin Media. 20 July 2010.
  21. "SKY MOVIES CLASSICS GOES HD" (PDF). Sky Programme Information. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  22. "Sky Sports, Sky Movies to launch in HD on Smallworld Cable". Digital Spy. 2 November 2011.
  23. "UPC adds 19 Sky channels in HD". TechCentral. 15 August 2012.
  24. "Sky Movies Disney: new channel to show UK TV film premieres". The Guardian. 21 February 2013.
  25. "Sky Movies Disney channel to launch on Sky in March". Digital Spy. 21 February 2013.
  26. "BARB Reported Channels". 22 March 2013. Sky Movies Classics will cease broadcasting on 27th March 2013.
  27. "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.
  28. "Sky Movies: new channels, new line-up". Sky Movies. 4 March 2013.
  29. "Sky Movies rebrand to feature one premiere a day". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
  30. "Sky Movies is changing to Sky Cinema, but what has really changed?". 15 June 2016.
  31. "Sky Q major software update rolling out: Here's what your Sky Q box can do now – Pocket-lint".
  32. "Sky Cinema Month Pass | Now TV - Help". Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  33. "List of line-up changes on Sky (UK and Ireland) in 2016 – TVCL – TV Channel Lists". Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  34. "List of line-up changes on Sky (UK and Ireland) in 2017 – TVCL – TV Channel Lists". Retrieved 7 November 2017.
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