At The Movies – How To Use The Phrase Correctly

There are a lot of things for us to discuss about the phrase “at the movies”. Can we use both at the movies and in the movies? Why don’t we use “at the movie” instead of “at the movies”? What are the differences between “at the movies” and “in the theater?

If you also have these same questions, this small article is for you. Scroll down for these interesting grammar points.


​1. Should we use “in the movies” or “at the movies”?

​Basically, we use “at the movies” if we mean it as a place. On the other hand “in the movies” are used if we want to talk about specific films. Interestingly, it is also used when we want to talk about unspecific films- but in this case, we want to distinguish among other forms of entertainments such as movies and TV dramas.

​If we want to talk about movies (products) in general, we only use “in movies”.

  • I have seen this film at the movies several times.
  • In the movies directed by Tim Burton, there are very unique patterns of colors.
  • I don’t remember seeing this actor on TV but in the movies.
  • In movies, we can find many life lessons about love and family.

In term of theater, you can use “in theaters” to refer to movies and plays which are currently on at the moment. “In a theater” will point out a specific location.

  • Show me the current movies in theaters.
  • I saw this play once in a theater.

2. Why does the word “movies” in “at the movies” need to be in plural form?

If you don’t pay attention, you might mistakenly write “at the movie” instead of “at the movies”. The word – “the movies” in this case is not about a particular product. In fact, according to the Macmillan Dictionary, this word in the plural form means a form of entertainment. It also refers to the whole industry of making and contributing films. Note that when we refer to the movies as a form of entertainment or the film making industry, we always include the word – “the”. “The movies” also means the place where we go to see movies.

A “movie” refers to a single product.

However, if we refer to a few numbers of films, we don’t use the word “the”. Here are some few examples to help clarify these points:

  • The movies industry is an interesting industry.
  • I like watching movies.
  • This movie is one of the best movies I have ever seen so far.

​3. The differences among “Movie”, “Cinema”, “Film” and “Theater”

​Movie or film is a form of motion pictures. To refer to a specific product like “Gone with the wind”, “film”, “movie” and “picture” are interchangeable.

​Cinema also means motion pictures. This word originates from the French word – cinematographe, which means movements. However, it never refers to a single motion picture.

  • I like this film. I like this movie. I like this picture.
  • Never say I watch this cinema.
  • Picture is mainly British English expression. “Movie” is a popular term in the US while “cinema” and “film” are more common in the UK.

​“The cinema”, “the movies”, “the pictures” and “the theater” all refer to a place for movies or plays. On the other hand, “the film” standing on its own, never means a place.

  • More specifically, “the cinema” refers to a place where movies are shown.
  • “The theater” is the place for live performance such as ballets, plays and musicals.
  • People also use “Movie Theater” to refer to the places at which movies are shown instead of live performance.
  • E.g: I am going to the cinema/ I am going to the pictures/ I am going to the movies

Note: that “the cinema” is in singular form while “the movies” and “the pictures” are in plural forms.

​I hope that this article and its information above could help to clarify some confusing grammar points about the phrase “in the movies” and “at the movies. There are a lot to remember about “movies”, “cinema”, “theater” and “film” but with frequent uses, I am sure that you will master these grammars.