The UK has launched a so-called cinema day offering users of mobile phone network Orange two tickets for the price of one on Wednesdays.

The three-year initiative, developed with pan-industry promotional body All Industry Marketing (AIM), has secured exclusive promotion in at least 90% of UK cinemas. As part of the deal, Orange will have exclusive content rights to more than 12 releases next year for the first month they hit the screen.

The long-debated promotion differs to previous, aborted initiatives, which offered heavily discounted tickets rather than two for one. Some argue that mid-week promotions come at the expense of weekend visits to the cinema, but AIM aims for the initiative to grow the cinema audience. Orange is also to support a programme of regional screenings and previews to build a deeper appreciation of film.

"This innovative partnership represents a long-term investment by Orange in UK cinema," said AIM chairman Barry Jenkins. "We are proud to be working together to promote film and cinema throughout the UK and are delighted to see Orange taking the lead at the heart of UK cinema."

Orange customers will buy tickets by sending a text message to the designated number 241. They will then receive a reference number by return text, which can be redeemed at participating cinemas to receive two tickets for the price of one paid ticket, on any Wednesday throughout the year.

Phone users will also be able to access exclusive film-based downloads such as images, games and ring tones via the recently-launched Orange World portal.

"We are not interested in sponsorships that are little more than putting our logo on an event," said Jeremy Dale, vice president UK brand marketing at Orange. "Instead, we are focussed on driving real benefits and compelling services to our customers by getting involved at the very core of an offering and delivering something of true value. Our customers will now be able to use their Orange phone like a season ticket for the cinema."

Amongst the industry executives voicing their support was Nick Hill, chief executive of Icon Group. "This exciting initiative will further grow the audience for film in the UK in a strategic way," he said.

Ron Hanlon, marketing director of Odeon Cinemas said the initiative was "the most compelling consumer offer ever made available in the UK", while Daniel Battsek, senior vice president of Buena Vista International, added: "The growth of the UK cinema industry is an international success story. The next stage is a comprehensive campaign to incentivise people to go to the cinema more frequently and to see a broader range of films."