How do you spell movie theater? Is it “theatre”? Is it “theater”? Or do you not even use the term movie theater? Perhaps you say, “Let’s go see a flick” or maybe it’s, “Let’s go to the movies.” I’m aware the spelling of “movie theater” is fairly uncontroversial these days but I still find myself confused by the different spellings every time I need to write it. If you had asked me a year ago I would have absolutely 1000% told you the correct spelling is “movie theater.” But during recent assignments for Hollywood.com my mind was blown.
First, we published the #hollygood news that Regal was reopening its movie theaters and during research, for the article, I came to discover that on the movie theater chain’s website they used the spelling “theatre.” What?! No way. (Insert exploding head emoji here).
That’s okay, I was then convinced that AMC, the largest movie theater chain, would see it my way. I was disappointed again! Could I really have gotten it wrong all these years?!? Someone call my first-grade teacher Mrs. Keller. I have a bone to pick with her.
I mean this is like when Andy Cohen told us we were all pronouncing Khloe Kardashian’s name wrong.
I had to find out if I was the only one. Was this some type of trick that had been played on me? Like when we used to be on a road trip with my Uncle and we’d see cows on the side of the road and he’d ask us what noise the cows made and instead of moo-ing like a cow he’d cluck like a chicken. Just think I could have grown up thinking cows cluck and chickens moo. Just like I’ve grown up spelling “movie theater.”
Spell-check, Grammarly, Merriam Webster
Getting this right became a matter of principle. I got out of my chair and asked people in the office. I wrote an email to all of the employees at Hollywood.com. I texted friends all over the country. I mean it couldn’t possibly be a matter of opinion there had to be one right answer. This wasn’t like are you team Godzilla or team Kong, this isn’t answering if Ross and Rachel were really on a break, or should Hermoine have wound up with Harry. There had to be an answer.
My writer friends texted me back (writers take this stuff seriously).
I was born in the South and spent my formative years in North Carolina, where the word “theater” is freely used without being attached to a noun. If you say, “Let’s go to the movies,” it always sounded kind of odd to my ears because I always heard the word “theater” immediately before or after the phrase, so it never felt like a real movie theater—just like when you have a store called Kmart but it’s not an actual store (or you have a phone that doesn’t actually make calls). It just confuses things for me because of osmosis.
One co-worker suggested I should look it up in the dictionary. DUH! Of course they’d know. A quick click over to Merriam Webster will clear this all up.
WHAT IS GOING ON?!
There’s a glitch in the Matrix.
At this point I was several hours over several days into this obsession and deeply disturbed. I decided to pour myself a cup of coffee, pull myself together, and get this right once and for all.
I discovered there are a lot of different ways to spell movie theater. At the risk of opening up an online war over which is the correct spelling, I’ve decided to make a case for why you should use “movie theater.”
If the dictionary says movie theater isn’t a word and my trusty Microsoft spell check will take both versions it’s time to pull out the big guns. Grammarly is the first source I find that explains the differences as regional and finally someone is on my side – “movie theater” is the spelling in American English. Boom! One point for team movie theater. Furthermore, Grammarly gives me some direction for all of the writing we are going to do about movie theaters with our upcoming movie ticketing app (sign up here to be the first to get to download it). Grammarly says, “If your audience speaks American English, use theater.”
Google: Movie Theater vs Movie Theater
Google auto-complete tells me that “movie theater” is the most common spelling. BOOM! Second point for movie theater! And we all know Google can’t be wrong, right? LOL.
Wikipedia: Movie Theater vs Movie Theater
As I continued to scour the internet for sources, Wikipedia aligns to Grammarly citing that the different spellings are caused by regional differences for different countries. This Wikipedia explanation stated that “movie theater” was a common spelling in American English and “cinema” was commonly used in British English but then they went on to confuse the matter even more by adding that Indian English often refers to the viewing of films in a building as “cinema hall.” Furthermore, it was cited that theatre is the preferred spelling in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and elsewhere. Listen, I’m from New Jersey, calling things different names based on the region I get. What’s taylor ham in the north is pork roll in the south – I get it. Wikipedia was on my side, at least in America, the correct spelling is “movie theater.” That’s 3 points for the spelling “movie theater.”
Additional Sources: Movie Theater vs Movie Theater
Just to be clear, there was no tie-breaker needed. Google, Wikipedia, Grammarly all agree the correct spelling in the USA is “movie theater.” But I thought I would share one final source that sheds some light on how this whole thing got started. According to Theatre in Chicago, the spelling of “movie theater” with an “-er” vs a “-re” dates back to the 1820s when Noah Webster published the first American English dictionaries and often would change the spelling of certain words to make them less British. Your honor, I rest my case.
The truth is no matter what way you chose to spell, say, or otherwise talk about it I know we can all agree that we are ready to go back to the movie theater. In fact, 74% of respondents of a survey are ready to return to the movie theaters. So it’s #hollygood news that movie theaters across the country are reopening. Follow our tips for going back to the movie theaters and check out what movies are in theatres (LOL I had to).
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