Initially, I thought the cinema and theatre was the same thing but I looked up multiple websites but gave different answers. I hope all of you can provide me with the correct differences.


2 Answers 2


In British English, a cinema shows films, while a theatre is where plays are performed live.

Cinema is also the name of the art of filmmaking, while theatre can also refer to art of performing on stage.

It is very rare in British English to use "theatre" to refer to a cinema, although BFI Southbank was formerly called the National Film Theatre.

In BrE if you say you're going to the theatre, people will always assume you mean a theatre, not a cinema - unless perhaps you speak with an American accent.

  • What’s the difference between films and movies?
    – Genie
    Dec 9, 2020 at 12:56
  • 1
    There is very little difference. The term "movie" is more colloquial and is sometimes considered an Americanism (but is fairly widely used, especially among younger speakers). The term "film" is a bit wide-ranging, in several respects: (1) it is rare to refer to an art film as a movie - the term "movie" connotes Hollywood; (2) a short film is rarely called a movie; (3) the film stock itself or the film reels used in old-fashioned cameras aren't called movies.
    – rjpond
    Dec 9, 2020 at 14:41
  • So...we call trailers” movie trailers” and not “film trailers” so movie would be the better of the latter.
    – Genie
    Dec 9, 2020 at 16:33
  • 3
    Good answer which clarifies the difference. I'll just add that the common American usage is "movie theater" or just "theater" instead of "cinema," which is rare here and usually refers to the art. Sorry, it is more vague to be sure! But I think we rarely refer to the venue. You'll more often hear something like "We went to a movie" or "I'd like to see a play." So we just use a form of "go" to distinguish from home viewing.
    – BoomChuck
    Dec 9, 2020 at 17:25
  • Thank you ell.stackexchange.com/users/60894/rjpond for your help so a theatre is a placed where sketch and plays are held but a cinema is a placed where movies are shown. Both require tickets, correct? Am I right? Dec 10, 2020 at 4:16

In US English, “theater” can be a place to watch either live plays or movies, and without context there is no way to tell which is meant. The word “cinema” is not often used in US English, and pretty much only in formal contexts.

“theater” can also refer to the art of performing plays, sometimes including writing them, but it is not normally used for the art of making movies (or films). The words “cinema” and “cinematic” are used in connection with the art of creating films/movies, and the industry that produces and distributes them, and other related things.

"Movie" is the more casual term, and by far the more often used, but "film" is the more inclusive term, and includes short films that would not usually be called movies. It is often used in a more formal context. "Video" is now often used for any moving image displayed over a computer or digital device, or designed to be so displayed, especially a short one not suitable for commercial full-length release.

The other answers explain UK usage correctly, to the best of my understanding. I am not sure about usage in Indian English.

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