Live theatre brings fascinating people, interesting places and wonderful stories to life.
When we go to the theatre we forget about normal life and immerse ourselves in captivating performances. From fun singalong musicals to serious critiques of modern society, as with the world’s biggest cinemas, live theatre provides entertainment, and gives us a sense of escapism.
In 2018, over 34 million people went to the theatre in the UK, but where is the biggest theatre in the world? Here are the contenders based on seated capacity.
Location: Tokyo, Japan | Seats: 1,964 | Opened: 1889
One of Tokyo’s most famous tourist destinations, the Kabuki-za is a historic location and the largest theatre in the world of its type. It has retained its imperial façade, despite a number of reconstructions over the years. It is also the spiritual home of kabuki, the traditional seventeenth-century Japanese drama form combining music, dance, mime and wonderfully colourful costumes.
Location: Paris, France | Seats: 1,979 | Opened: 1875
In a city of grand, beautiful buildings, Palais Garnier may well be the most ornate, opulent and ostentatious of them all. It is without question one of the world’s most famous opera houses. The auditorium ceiling was painted by Marc Chagall, depicting scenes from operas by Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi, Ravel and others. Its centrepiece is a seven-ton chandelier made of crystal and brass. A truly magnificent building and a challenger for the title of largest theatre in the world.
Location: Warsaw, Poland | Seats: 2,000 | Opened: 1833
Warsaw’s Grand Theatre opened in 1833 with a performance of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. Today it’s home to the Polish National Ballet and the Polish National Opera. The theatre was completely destroyed during World War II, but after a twenty-year restoration project, one of Poland’s most beautiful buildings reopened in November 1965 as the biggest theatre in the world at the time.
Location: London, UK | Seats: 3,632 | Opened: 1932
This beautiful, Grade II-listed Art Deco theatre was designed by famous theatre architect Robert Crombie and is one of London’s most popular live event venues. It’s played host to some of the greats of live music including Queen, The Beatles and Bob Marley, as well as productions of some of London’s most famous musicals including Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and the UK debut of Riverdance.
Radio City Music Hall
Location: New York, USA | Seats: 5,960 | Opened: 1932
One of the world’s great theatres, Radio City Music Hall is synonymous with music, stage shows and entertainment of all kinds. Its famous neon sign on the corner of 6th Avenue and West 50th Street is one of New York’s most popular tourist sights. The home of the legendary Rockettes dance troupe, it is known as ‘The Showplace of the Nation’. Radio City Music Hall is, at time of writing, officially the biggest theatre in the
The Biggest Ancient Theatre in the World
For hundreds of years, the ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans constructed huge open-air theatres for sporting and drama events. The most famous and largest ever constructed is the Colosseum in Rome, completed in 80 AD (though strictly this was an amphitheatre rather than a theatre). At its most capacious, it’s believed that 80,000 people watched gladiatorial battles, Roman mythological dramas and even reenactments of Rome’s most famous battles.
Another contender for the world’s biggest ancient theatre is the Great Theatre of Ephesus in modern-day Turkey. Close to the site of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the theatre was built in the third century BC and could seat around 25,000 people. It was designed with sixty-six rows of seats and two walkways known as diazoma. During archaeological excavations, the Emperor’s private box was found as well as marble-backed seats for the high and mighty. It was used as a venue for music concerts and plays, as well as religious, philosophical and political discussion and gladiatorial battles.
The World’s Biggest Outdoor Theatre
The Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles with the world-famous Hollywood sign in the background is the world’s biggest operational open-air theatre with a capacity of 17,500. It is predominantly used as a music venue but one of the events before it officially opened in July 1922 was a performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night by students from Hollywood High School.