movie theater

Discussion in 'English Only' started by majlo, Apr 29, 2006.

  1. I recently read in my Practical English coursebook that this phrase is an AmE term for cinema. Though, I'd been a bit surprised since I'd never come across this term before. Is it frequently used by AmE speakers?
    Thanks in advance. :)
  2. mjscott Senior Member


    "What's playing at the movie theater?"
    "We're going to the movie theater."

    NOTE: Live theatre (an enacted play) is spelled t-h-e-a-t-r-e, whereas the building where they show movies is spelled t-h-e-a-t-e-r.
  3. maxiogee Banned

    I never knew that.
    Do you know why?
  4. lablady

    lablady Senior Member

    Central California
    English - USA
    Unless you live in my town where the local movie theater calls itself a "theatre", and has named its website accordingly. ;) They most likely did that because if you put in the website name with "theater", you end up with a stage in the Los Angeles area that books live bands.

    To answer the original question, "movie theater" is used most often here, but we understand "cinema". The word "cinema" frequently appears in the names of theaters.

    We also call it "the show."

    "What are you doing tonight?"
    "I thought I'd go to the show. Do you want to join me?"
    "Sounds like fun, what's playing?"
  5. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    American English, Palestinian Arabic
    Wow - I didn't realize "movie theater" was an Americanism! It is in fact what the vast majority of people here say (along with "the movies") although as Lablady said "cinema" is understood.

    So does this mean our friends in Britian don't say "movie theater"? If so, what do you say - just "cinema"? What about other parts of the English-speaking world (Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, etc.)?
  6. orion Member

    English UK
    I'm from the UK and I've never heard anyone say "movie theatre" sounds very American to me.
    I think that "cinema" is probably the most usual way here to refer to the actual place.
    If I'm going to watch a movie/film (at a cinema), then I would usually say: "I'm going to the pictures"... I'm not sure if that might sound like a slightly old-fashioned expression, but I'm in my 20's and most people where I live still say it that way. ;)
  7. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Here is the Irish BE view.

    Where are we going tonight?

    We are going to XXXXX

    We always used to say "the pictures". MrsP would be delighted to know that orion still says this.

    Influenced by my kids, decades ago, I began to say "the cinema".
    More recently, they might say "the movies" or "to see a movie" (although "the cinema" is still favourite.)

    We would never say movie theater, or theatre - although being naturally brilliant, we know exactly what this means.
  8. moorerp New Member

    corvallis, oregon, usa
    english, USA
    'The pictures' can be used the same way in the US, but it's definitely an old-fashioned expression.

    Just to be throw a little more confusion on a simple topic, United Statesians rarely, if ever, say "I'm going to the movie theater" when they're telling someone that they're going to view a film (although a person might respond that way if someone asked him simply "where are you going?"). "I'm going to the movies" has got to be the overwhelming favorite in that context, although there are some slangy others ("I'm going to catch a flick," etc.). "Movie theater" is a geographic term, as in "Is there a movie theater in this town?" or "Is there a pay phone in front of that movie theater?"

  9. CAMullen Senior Member

    US, English
    I've never been aware of a hard-and-fast distinction between "theatre" and "theater," although I suppose "theatre" might be used somewhat more by people who say "film" instead of "movie."
  10. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    I would go to see a film at the cinema. "Movie" for "film" is sometimes heard, but someone saying to me "we're going to the movies tonight" for "cinema" would sound a bit strange, as if they were doing an impression of someone - and I've never heard "movie theater" over here (which, I suppose, isn't surprising since "film" is our more usual word for a "movie"). I might use "the pictures" on occasion, too.

    Also - the "theater" "theatre" distinction raised by MJScott above - I wonder if that is just north American. I have only ever seen "theatre" spelt that way over here.
  11. Aud Duck Senior Member

    Illinois, USA
    English--United States
    Spelling "theater" with "er" is probably strictly AE, like spelling it "color," instead of "colour." The spelling differences don't seem to me to have a system, though it's possible there's a difference between live theatre and the movies. It seems more likely to me that some live theatres like to appear upscale and sophisticated, and use the "re" spelling to convey that. BE spellings tend to be percieved as pretentious or intellectual, depending on whom you talk to, so companies sometimes use BE spelling in their names to appeal to a certain demographic. (I absolutely know that, in AE, it's "color" and "center," but I have seen art stores and places like that use "colour and "centre.")
  12. CAMullen Senior Member

    US, English
    My point exactly.
  13. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    Sorry, this is not an official distinction. The word is originally French - thêatre. The British adopted it. Early American English adopted it. Webster sought to rid AE of what he saw as "anglicisms." Many existing playhouses, however, were already spelled with an -re, so it stuck.

    Please see the WR definition HERE.
    Other dictionaries are consistent with the fact that both spellings (yes, even in AE) are acceptable and interchangeable.

    As an example, please see THIS link. Please also see THIS link.

    I work in a performing arts theatre. I go to the movie theatre every weekend. If the exact name of the theatre in which I work was not spelled with an "re," I could just as easily spell it with an "er."

    My Chicago Style Guide notes that "theater" is the preferred style (for play and movie houses) among newspaper editors, unless a proper name (Jane Smith Performing Arts Theatre) is used.

    The only other note is about consistent usage - whichever you use, stick to it and don't switch between them.
  14. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    Greek Greece
    Er... the word is actually originally Greek and, if you want to stick to the original's spelling I think you should go with either "theatron" or "theatro" :) ;)

    As for "theater" for movies, I think I first noted it in the "coming soon in a theater near you" line after movie trailers.
  15. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    When I was a lad, I went to see the picture theatre to see a film.
    We shortened it to "the pictures". I'm going to the pictures on Saturday.

    The people who hand out Oscars call themselves "The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences", and give an award to the Best Picture.

    Currently, most people in Australia go to a cinema.
    Both the terms film and movie are used for what you see at the cinema.
  16. the MASTER

    the MASTER Senior Member

    Here and there ...
    English - British
    I remember going to 'the pictures' too as a youngster. But now I would say 'cinema'.
    As regards the the spelling of 'theatre', it seems that the only controversy is in the U.S. Everyone else in the English-speaking world uses the '-re' spelling!
    I always thought that the 'official U.S. spelling was with '-er'. But check out the newyorktheatreguide website!
  17. 0216monty Member

    Chinese - Cantonese, Mandarin
    I guese "I'm going to see a movie/film" is acceptable in both AmE and BrE?
  18. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    In AmE it would be much mor natural to say "I'm going to see a movie". The word "film" would not be used for ordinary movies, but might instead be used to indicate that one is going to see something that was not a typical commercial release. For example, "I am going to see a film made by the students at the university", or "I am going to see a film by Verde Weissblau, the great artistic director". As far as American English is concerned, the word "film" has a connotation or overtone (either artsy or pretentious) that "movie" does not have. It would be considered very affected to use "film" in all cases, as in "I prefer the first film in the Nightmare on Elm Street series to the sequel films".
  19. dashford New Member

    This is very funny, because I was taught just about the exact opposite. Theater is the branch of the performing arts, and it is performed (and movies are shown) in a theatre.
  20. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Where I live, people say "going to see a movie" or "going out to a movie", and "movie house" is as common as "theater"/"theatre". Theater here is usually spelled with -er, but pronunciation varies widely (thEE-ater, thee-AY-der, thEE-ay-ter, etc.).
  21. NRaye1960 New Member

    The spelling of theatre technically refers to the art of theatre; whereas theater refers to a building. Among theatrical people, it is a long standing point of contention.

    As an American, I don't believe I have ever said "I am going to the movie theater." If I am going to see a movie I say, "I'm going to see a movie." I've often said, "I'm going to the cinema" If I'm going to see a live play, I say, "I'm going to the theater"

    In short, it doesn't matter what or how we say it as long as we support the cinema and the theatre!
  22. bluegiraffe

    bluegiraffe Senior Member

    Nottingham, England
    English - England
    It would be unusual, and probably seen as pretentious, for an English-English speaker to say "I'm going to a movie". Note I'm making the distinction of someone that lives in England and not other parts of Great Britain/the UK.
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2009

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