In American English, the word marquee may refer to:

a covered entrance to a theater with a sign that shows the names of the movies or play that you can see

Is there a British English word that refers to the sign above a movie theatre? I have only every heard a marquee to refer to a tent.

  • 1
    I also was confused the first time I met marquee in that context, as to me it only meant a large tent. However, I have never found a satisfactory word for it in British English.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 14:59
  • cinema sign or readograph?
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 14, 2018 at 19:27
  • or cinema light box, too.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 14, 2018 at 19:37

2 Answers 2


The typical American marquee is a large, three-sided sign extending to the street in front of the entrance to a cinema, theater, or other entertainment venue. That the sign lights the entrance like an airport runway or shelters theatergoers from the weather is merely incidental:

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Movable letters may provide information about current performances or there may be custom graphics for each major production.

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After scouring Google images for West End theatres, the closest I've found to having an American-style marquee is the Palace:

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Here, however, as much as the elaborate signage visually overpowers the arcade extending across the entire façade of the building, they are architecturally distinct structures.

Other theatres have large signs extending streetward from an upper story or flat across the upper façade, but nothing resembling the American sign cum awning one sees on Broadway.

The reason the British don't have a word for marquee is simply because they don't need one. Otherwise, if you say marquee to someone from the UK, this is what they'll have in mind:

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Oddly, here in the UK we often refer to a freestanding tent as a marquee — small square ones sometimes as gazebos — but normally only refer to the large entrance coverings outside theatres et al as awnings, or occasionally just as canopies. We sometimes refer to the signage as a marquee.

We did have Marquee Club in London until 1988.

Not much of an answer, I know.

  • 2
    Another day, another difference between BrEng and AmEng I didn't previously know... I would argue that the word marquee in AmEng can refer to either the signage or the overhang. However, if the signage is missing, the overhang cannot then be called a marquee.
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 15:32

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