Theatre vs. Theater | Meaning, Spelling & Examples

Theatre and theater are two different spellings of the noun used to refer to the building in which theatrical performances are carried out and to the art or profession of theatrical production. The spelling varies based on whether you’re writing UK or US English.

  • In UK English, “theatre” is standard.
  • In US English, “theater” is more common.
Examples: Theatre and theater in a sentence
The local theatre/theater has received national funding.

Whenever I visit London, I go to the theatre/theater.

Eva has always wanted to work in the theatre/theater.

I’m not a fan of the theatre/theater. I prefer watching movies.

Sometimes a distinction is made between theater (meaning a building) and theatre (meaning the art or business of theatrical production). However, this distinction is not commonly accepted and does not reflect actual usage.

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Exception: The names of buildings and production companies

There’s an exception to the rule of distinguishing between theatre and theater based on the version of English. When the name of a building or company (e.g., Manhattan Theatre Club) uses an alternative spelling, it’s a proper noun and can’t be changed.

Example: Theater name as proper noun
Anna is a big fan of theater, and she’s always wanted to visit the Globe Theatre in London.

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Movie theatre or theater

Movie theater is used in US English to refer to the building in which movies or films are shown. In UK English, this building is instead called a “cinema.” “Movie theatre” is rarely used.

Examples: Movie theater in a sentence
We went to a nice restaurant and then to the movie theater.

The food in the movie theater is so expensive!

Other interesting language articles

If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

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Eoghan Ryan

Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.