Structural and optical properties of ZnO films grown on R–Al2O3 substrates by atmospheric pressure chemical-vapor deposition were investigated using x-ray diffraction and photoluminescence. The (112¯0) plane of the ZnO film tilted 0.3° with respect to the (11¯02) plane of the substrate and rotated about 7° around the normal of the sample surface. Symmetric (112¯0) and asymmetric (202¯2) x-ray reflection on ZnO films with different thicknesses were carried out. Comparison with photoluminescence measurements allowed us to conclude that the optical properties of the ZnO films are predominately determined by the in-plane, rather than out-of-plane, structural features. © 2001 American Institute of Physics.