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A movie theater (American English ), cinema (British English ), or cinema hall ( Indian English ), also known as a picture house , the pictures, or the movies, is a building that contains auditoria for viewing films (also called movies) for entertainment . Most , but not all, theaters are commercial operations catering to the general public , who attend by purchasing a ticket. Some movie theaters, however, are operated by non-profit organizations or societies that charge members a membership fee to view films. The film is projected with a movie projector onto a large projection screen at the front of the auditorium while the dialogue , sounds and music are played through a number of wall -mounted speakers. Since the 1970s , subwoofers have been used for low-pitched sounds. In the 2010s, most movie theaters are equipped for digital cinema projection, removing the need to create and transport a physical film print on a heavy reel. A great variety of films are shown at cinemas, ranging from animated films to blockbusters to documentaries. The smallest movie theaters have a single viewing room with a single screen. In the 2010s, most movie theaters had multiple screens. The largest theater complexes, which are called multiplexes—a concept developed in Canada in the 1950s — have up to thirty screens.