I usually say multiplex for a cinema with more screens. What word can I use to refer to a cinema with a single screen? Monoplex? Singleplex?

Is there a word other than single-screen to describe a cinema like that?

  • 2
    I believe that the official singular for multiplex is uniplex, but I've never heard anyone say that.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 11:34
  • @Mr Lister: Define "official". Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 12:19
  • @FumbleFingers You've got a point there. The only medium I've got here that I would call anywhere near authoritative is the Oxford Concise English, and the word isn't in it. Oh well. Fortunately I posted my remark as a comment rather than an answer.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 12:25
  • 3
    Just call it a cinema. A multiplex has many cinemas. Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 13:23
  • In the days before cineplex we just called them theaters. Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 14:34

4 Answers 4


Multiplex as a word has been around for centuries. It was not invented for cinemas.

As for the opposite, it seems to be uniplex - and uniplex, and uniplex.

Ngram shows 'uniplex' suddenly appearing in the 1970's, though it is only fair to point out that OED doesn't list the word.

  • 4
    Google Books - "at the multiplex":192,000 hits; "at the uniplex":0 hits. But there are hundreds of hits each for single-screen cinema / cinemas / theatre / theatres, so I would say realistically uniplex is just a low-currency nonce word / backformation with insufficient (and declining) real-world referents to be worth promoting. Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 12:59
  • All the three references uniformly suggest the use of the term either as a title or a sub-title of the theater, not as a generic denomination.
    – Kris
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 5:44
  • Also, "Uniplex Cinema: Uniplex is a concept for an independent cinema proposed to be housed in the city of Los Angeles." portfolio.davidsanmiguel.com/Uniplex-Cinema
    – Kris
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 5:45

Single screen itself is still used extensively in some countries, esp., where the multiplex (cinema) is a newer phenomenon and people are just learning the word. That way, it's also easier for them understand what is multiplex in the first place.

Though some may not be aware of it, uniplex is indeed used widely. However, what is to be noted is that when a newer technology/ system comes, we only need a distinguishing name for the newer one, the existing technology or system goes without a distinct name. Have you ever heard of analog TV? (it's what we always knew as TV before digital TV).

  • 3
    Actually, yes, I hear about analog TV all the time. Yes, initially it's only the new thing that needs a modifier, but when it starts becoming more popular, we generally invent a modifier for the original. ("asp-classic" vs. "asp.net" is one such pair from my work life.)
    – Marthaª
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 14:28
  • 2
    @Marthaª In practice I think we mostly stumble around for terms for the old thing. Like when cell phones were invented, we talked about "regular phones" (only valid until cell phones become the norm), "home phones" (inadequate -- you could have a non-cell phone at a business), "wall phones" (what if it sits on a desk?), etc. I think we've settled on "land-line" (a term that has indeed been around for a while but wasn't consistently applied). I think in many cases "regular", "old", etc are used until a better word gets wide currency.
    – Jay
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 14:40
  • @Marthaª I've learned that such words are called retronyms. Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 17:01
  • Also sometimes classified (a little metaphorically, IMHO) as "back-formations," which normally applies to a new word formed by removing a(n apparent) prefix or suffix from a familiar one.
    – Jeffiekins
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 15:31

There is no generally-accepted retronym or back-formation yet for a non-multiplex movie theater.

These things take time; it was some 20 years after the touch-tone phone was introduced that we started seeing "dial telephone." The multi-plex is a little bit more recent than that, so any day now...

Personally, I say "big-screen theater."

  • 1
    Multiplex is not a modern word. It has been around since before 1398. From OED: "1398 J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomaeus Anglicus De Proprietatibus Rerum (BL Add.) f. 327v, An nombre þat hatte multiplex conteyneþ þe lasse nombre twies or þries or foure siþes, as tweyne conteyneþ twies oon." Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 15:05
  • Yes but in the first half of the 20th century it meant to send multiple signals through a single conduit through some (more or less) clever means. The use to designate multiple movie theaters in a single building only goes back to the 70's, by my recollection. This meaning is so different that it qualifies, by most measures, as a different word altogether.
    – Jeffiekins
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 15:26

I usually say multiplex for a cinema with more screens. What word can I use to refer to a cinema with a single screen? Monoplex? Singleplex?

You really say multiplex? And not just think it?

Theater (derived from theatre, but for movies) is the word you seek.

Monoplex and single-plex both would be highly unusual in that both imply combinations of one (of themselves), which doesn't quite "pan" out (if you will forgive a cinematograpical pun). The suffix, -plex, an ad-speak combining form derived from complex, always implies a combination of more than one. There once were only theaters; then twin theaters; then multiplex theaters (more correctly, theatre multiplexes...the disuse of which might be contributing to confusion); then super-multiplexes - or superplexes.

For those who equate "cinema" to a theater performance presentation space (i.e., to an auditorium...rather than to its "purer" meaning as a performance presentation activity/product), cinema would be an acceptable place, just as is a theater, to watch a movie.

So, the theater or the cinema. But once inside the -plex, then it's theater or auditorium, not cinema: lest you confuse the employees who might not know they are working in a cinema.

  • Theatre as designation of an activity or product, whether of players or of playwrights, does not occur in English before the 17th century, at which time the word was already two thousand years old. Its primary meaning is "a place for seeing". Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 20:14
  • So a theater is a theatre for movies, I guess a program and an analog are a programme and an analogue for computers. These are just American spellings of the words; in New York, you go to plays in a theater, and you have for over a century. Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 18:57

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