British English vs. U.S. English - film vs. movie

When I write English I prefer to stick with one convention of spelling and grammer, and as I learned British English in school I’m using that - even though I sometimes get confused by reading so much U.S. English on the Internet.

Anyway; I’m thouroughly confused over the use of ‘movie’ vs. ‘film’ in British English. Is ‘film’ slightly outmoded or…? Would it be wierd if I used ‘movie’ instead when everything else is ‘English English’ (to the best of ability :)).


‘Film’ is not outmoded in British English. It’s the most common way of referring to a motion picture, IMO.

‘Movie’ is also used here but has an American English feel to it.

[Huge generalisations ahead]

I find most people in the UK don’t use the word “movie”. They go to the cinema to watch a film. They might say that they are going to the pictures - quite old-fashioned but still used.

Movie has an American feel, as hammos1 said. I could be wrong, but I think in the US one might go to the theater to watch a movie, whereas in the UK the theatre is where one goes to watch a play.

[end generalisations, sorry about all the italics]

Thank you very much!

I’ll use ‘film’ then, from now on.

I post quite a bit in Cafe Society and have to conciously stop myself from using “film”. One thing that I find strange is I do reviews of movies (see) for my work staff magazine. The bit is called - “At the Movies With …” but whenever the editor asks for one she will say, “Can you give me a 250 word film review by Monday?”

I will say that, in the US, both terms are used. However, “film” is used in the more artistic sense: critical reviewers and those looking at film as an art form will use “film.” The general public uses “movie” more often.

They’re actually called cinemas, and “Cinema” is usually part of their name, but most people refer to them as “movie theatres” (and older people will spell that “theaters”–like “donut”/“doughnut”, I don’t know when the spelling changed).

Plays are also performed in theatres, but just “theatres”, not “movie theatres”.

“Film” and “movie” are used interchangably as far as I can tell, drawing some ire from those who think it improper to call movies orginating from video “films”. The only other term I’ve heard used seriously is “picture show”, but the person who said it was an ancient woman who probably remembers when silents premiered.

So, ‘film’ is presumably more commonly used in the US than I thought. And btw. it’s interesting that the use of calling films originating from video ‘films’ is being disputed.


Is that true? I thought that the “theater” spelling was the usual one in the USA, with the exception of old-fashioned places such as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, but you say that “theatre” is the more modern spelling once again?

No, it isn’t. Dusty is off his rocker, I tell you. Theater is by far the dominant spelling in the US, but many places do have ‘Theatre’ as part of their name.

“Film” and “movie” are somewhat interchangeable, or, at least, there’s a huge area of overlap. But I’d say “movie” emphasizes the medium as a form of amusement or entertainment, and “film” emphasizes the medium as a fine art. University level film schools are called that…as in the UCLA Film School, never “movie schools”.

Not unless she’s about 110. The first silent movie theatre opened in 1902, according to what I’ve read.

From what I can see.

I think it started with cinemas calling themselves “Such-and-Such Theatre” in an effort to seem more up-scale. Then others, not to be out done, started doing the same. Eventually, it was the new normal.

That’s just my hypothesis. I can only say, among the people whose writings I read, the skew tends to be as I said: this generation spelling it “-re” to match the signs, older ones spelling it “-er” to match… I don’t know.

But maybe I’m crazy.

I was joking, She was probably in her 80s.

As a film student, I got marked down on my essays for using “movie” instead of “film”. None the less, I use “movie” because it makes more sense in the world of digital video. I feel like using “film” for DV projects relegates them to a space of “imitation film” and doesn’t give them the dignity they deserve. I feel like the academic insistence of the word “film” is indicative of the insecurity-formed elitism found in a department that is desperate to prove itself as a “real” area of study, as well as the fetishistic attitudes many movie pros have to doing things the old way.

Of course, the theatre and the cinema can be one and the same place, just depending on what’s on that evening :slight_smile:

I hadn’t thought I’d eventually start a discussion about this, but it’s interesting. I must admit I’ve never thought about it that way. To me, the story telling and the pictures/cinematography matters a whole lot more than whether it’s DV or film, but I guess it matters more for those who know about the differences.

BTW even sven; if you were writing in British English, would you still use ‘movie’? (to prove a point maybe - and I can understand if you’d want to :slight_smile: )

You’ll see ‘movie’ in some publications, often by people who move in Hollywood circles, but not in peoples’ general conversation. Less still will you hear ‘motion picture’.

I never knew that using ‘theater’ or ‘theatre’ was an age-related thing, or if it were, I’d have expected the younger people to spell it the first way. I thought rather that ‘theatre’ is how theaters like to spell it in their signage, sort of like the way that Krispy Kreme uses the “doughnut” spelling even though hardly anyone else does.

In a similar vein, maybe you can help me get everyone to stop calling instrumental pieces “songs”–but I fear that battle is long lost.

I did not realize that movie was a provincial term. How about “flick?” Is that commonly used outside of the US?

“The flicks” is used here in England, albeit in a slightly archaic sense.

When I was a kid we had “Saturday morning flicks” at the Odeon Cinema in Aldershot - this was something of a tradition: a load of short (and ancient - Champion the Wonder Horse, the Three Stooges, The Lone Ranger) films cobbled together that parents could leave their kids at for three hours or so while they went shopping. This was the mid-seventies, and the phenomenon was on its last legs.

(God, that was mayhem. Lolly sticks at the screen during the Stooges. Racing each other round the aisles. Clambering up and down the seats. I even recall the police arriving once to drag a sugar, tartrazine and caffeine-filled five-year-old out because the staff just couldn’t cope with his one-child riot zone.)