Is it Theater or Theatre?

This morning, I figured out the solution to Broadway’s biggest problem. . .

Just kidding.

For years, I have been using the words theater and theatre interchangeably. I am usually consistent within a single blog post, but across the board? I switch all the time.

So. . . what’s the difference?

Some people think it is just more proper to use the -re spelling. Some say that theatre is British English and that theater is American English.  It all started in the late 1820s with Noah Webster (of Webster’s Dictionary)’s push to create a British-free American language. Nice try, buddy.

Another idea is that the British spelling belongs to Broadway and that the American spelling belongs to movie theaters or cinemas. But that doesn’t make any sense.

Broadway Theatres (or Theaters) today even interchange the spellings. Take Jujamcyn Theaters, for example. Their name is spelled with an –er. But the theaters (theatres) they own (St. James, Al Hirschfield, etc) are all spelled –re. But the Roundabout Theatre Company is spelled with an –re and their theaters (theatres) are spelled –re as well.  Hmmm.

In a few short minutes (thanks, Google!), I was able to go to the website for every Broadway Theater and see that the actual names of the theaters are spelled with –re and that the building itself is spelled –er.

So. . . you should say (or write), “The Richard Rodgers Theatre is a beautiful theater.”

Next time you are writing a blog post, or a comment, or an essay, or anything having to do with the word theatre (theater), you can thank me for your now correct grammar.

. . . But no one’s going to reprimand you for using one over the other.

  • Derek says:

    I really had to laugh at this post. As a non-American, I have to re-read every blog comment I write to check that I spelt theatre the American way as theater – and I’m sure I’m not the only one – every foreigner probably does that. I had no idea that Americans ever used the word theatre. This analysis is very interesting indeed.

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