The Noggin Movie players get the chance to run their own movie studio. The game can be divided into three main areas — designing the movie studio, forging the careers of film stars and making films. It is possible to focus on any of those areas that appeal most, and spend less time on the others. The game plays through from the birth of cinema to the present day and into the near future, with all the technology and historical advances that occur along that timeline. After the movies have been made, they can be played back for the viewer to watch. It is possible once the movie is made to add voice, text and music in Post Production.

The two most important types of staff in the game are actors and directors, referred to as "stars" in the game. In order to keep stars in a positive mood, the player will need to give them a salary the stars deem satisfactory (relative to their success), an image the stars deem decent, a trailer of good quality, and a large entourage . Stars can also get stressed or bored, depending on how many movies the player puts them in. Each star has different thresholds regarding when they will get stress or boredom. If stars get stressed, they will resort to alcahol or over-eating. Actors play a big role in The Movies. An actor's age and physique affects the quality of movies. Scary-looking actors are suited for horror roles. Younger, more handsome looking actors are more suited for romance movie roles. 30-year-old actors are suited for action roles, and older actors are suited for comedy roles. All actors and directors will retire at age 70. However, depending on a Star's experience in the movie's genre, the movie's quality will go up if they have an adequate level of experience, or down if they don't have enough experience. All films require crew members to carry out the filming process. Early films just require a camera operator and a clapperboard operator, but more advanced films require boom mike operators, lighting controllers and other specialised crew members. Other staff include extras (which can be promoted to Star status if they are good enough), janitors, scientists , scriptwriters,builders, and crew members.

The studio lot is where sets and buildings are built. In order to increase the 'prestige' of the studio lot, the studio must be neat, free of litter, well laid out and with areas of grass, trees and decoration. Buildings must also be linked together by paths. Buildings and sets also decay, thus decreasing the quality of movies that they appear in. They will eventually become unusable if they do not receive maintenance or repair by staff. The game begins with four rival studios, and six studios are added later. No more studios open for business after the year 1970.

There is no limit on movie length. The average movie length is between 30 seconds and 3 minutes, but user created films can be as long as budget will allow (although a 10 minute film might require over 20 game years of filming). In sandbox mode however, a director can have the movie shoot automatically with the correct options turned on, allowing a 15-20 minute movie made in about a minute. If this is chosen, however, the movie's crew rating will be announced as "awful". Once the actors, extras, director and crew are assigned to a film, production begins, with the entire staff of the film travelling between sets to film the movie. The sandbox mode allows films to be created without undergoing the lengthy production process, and with budgets of over $100 million. A film can be one of five genres: action, comedy, horror, romance or science fiction. The main effect genre choice has is that real world events affect popularity of different genres. (The Vietnam War decreases popularity of action, the Space Race increases the popularity of science fiction, World War II decreases the popularity of horror, the post-war period increases the popularity of horror, and the Great Depression increases the popularity of comedy.

Players are able to pick a script provided by the studio's writers or write their own, although automated scripts take long to write in game time, while user-written scripts take longer to write in real time. For pre-written scripts, the player hires a writer at theScriptwriting Office to make one. Multiple writers can collaborate on a single script in order to write it quicker. A series of upgrades, which are unlocked by winning studio awards, will allow the player to build higher quality Scriptwriting Offices, which increase the maximum rating a script can garner (1 star to 4 stars). The ability to write one's own script is enabled after unlocking the Custom Scriptwriting Office, which is itself unlocked from winning an award. It is limited in terms of quality to what the highest scripting office can produce. Writing a custom script follows a storyboard-like suite. For each scene, the player chooses a set for the scene and then the action that will occur during the scene (for example: 'Living Room 1: Enter Scared'). The actors and their costumes can be chosen, extras assigned roles and mood, and lighting and weather settings altered. The process will cost money though, the price increasing for each scene. The player can choose to have the structure set out for them (e.g., Introduction, pursuit, conflict, resolution) or "Freeform" mode, where there are no guidelines. Sets are the constructions in the studio lot where the cast and crew assemble to shoot movies. The sets are divided into categories such as urban, western and rural. Different scenes have different actions available (a bar might feature many drinking related actions, while a street would feature various car actions). Sets can be used to practice movies and increase genre experience. For example, an actor practising on the set of a spaceship will increase his/her science fiction proficiency, leading to a better performance in sci-fi movies he/she is cast in.

Once production has finished, the film undergoes post production (provided a Post Production Building has been erected), where music, sound effects, subtitles, speech and titles can be added to the movie. Cuts and changes can also be made to the length and order of the scenes, making editing the film easier. You can also record sounds and a dialogue track for each character in that particular scene. The game allows for lip-synching, matching the speech to the actors. However, this only works for short sound files, and only shows basic lip movements. Once the movie has been completed, it can be saved in a proprietary file format for transferring to other PC users, or WMV format for online sharing. Outstanding player-made films can be nominated for a Stanley, a version of the Oscars. Once you have reached Level 3 in story mode, the publicity office becomes available. This allows actors to hold press conferences and organizes marketing for your movie. Once a publicity office is built, players can also choose an advertising budget when releasing a film. A heavily-advertised movie can make much more money, but using too much advertising can result in the movie being 'over-exposed'.

The game starts in 1920 and continues indefinitely, although technologies tail off in 2020. As a result, early films are in black and white without sound, while modern movies feature digital sound and computer-generated imagery. Inventing these innovations before rival studios can increase the quality of your films, but hiring more researchers can cost more than the extra income the advances provide.