Difference Wiki

Amphitheatre vs. Theatre: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 7, 2023
An amphitheatre is an open-air venue with a circular or oval shape for spectator events, while a theatre is a building or space for the performance of plays, films, or other artistic displays.

Key Differences

Amphitheatres are circular or oval structures with tiers of seats surrounding a central open area, historically used for gladiatorial contests. Theatres are designed with a stage for performers and seating arranged to face this stage for an audience to watch plays or shows.
The design of an amphitheatre allows for a communal viewing experience from all angles, typically without a roof to connect with the natural environment. A theatre, conversely, is often an enclosed space, focusing the audience's attention on a specific framed area for dramatic presentations.
Amphitheatres were central to public life in ancient Rome, often hosting large-scale events and accommodating thousands. Theatres, while also historically significant, are more intimate venues, emphasizing acoustics and visibility for theatrical performances.
Modern amphitheatres continue to host a variety of events, from concerts to public speeches, leveraging their large capacity and panoramic viewing. Theatres have evolved to include sophisticated stage technology, enhancing the storytelling aspect of performances.
The term 'amphitheatre' can also symbolize open, communal gathering spaces in contemporary architecture. 'Theatre' extends beyond architecture, also referring to the collective realm of acting, writing, and production of live performances.

Comparison Chart


Circular or oval, with seats surrounding a central open space
Proscenium or thrust stage with audience facing one direction


Typically open-air
Usually enclosed

Historical Use

Gladiatorial contests, public spectacles
Dramatic arts, plays, orations

Modern Use

Concerts, public events
Plays, movies, musical performances


Large, accommodating thousands
Smaller, more intimate settings

Amphitheatre and Theatre Definitions


An open circular or oval building with a central space surrounded by tiers of seats for spectators.
The ancient amphitheatre still hosts plays and concerts.


A room or hall with seats and a screen where movies are shown.
They went to the theatre to see the latest blockbuster movie.


Architectural structures featuring stages set in a natural environment.
The park's amphitheatre was a popular spot for summer theatre productions.


A building or space where plays, films, or musical performances are presented.
The theatre was packed for the opening night of the new play.


A large structure reflecting ancient Roman architecture designed for public spectacles.
Tourists flocked to the amphitheatre, imagining the historic battles once fought there.


A field of activity, concern, or operation (e.g., "theatre of war").
The general briefed the troops about the next operations in the theatre.


A venue in modern times used for outdoor performances and events.
The band played an unforgettable show at the local amphitheatre.


A lecture hall or auditorium used for presentations and seminars.
The conference was held in the university's largest theatre.


A term used for open-air venues that host sports, entertainment, and community events.
The community gathered at the amphitheatre for the annual Independence Day celebration.


The art form involving acting, writing, and production of plays.
She devoted her life to the theatre, both as an actress and director.


An open, outdoor theatre (which may be a theatre in the round, or have a stage with seating on only one side), especially one from the classical period of ancient Greece or Rome, or a modern venue of similar design.
Ancient Roman amphitheatres were mostly oval or circular in plan, with seating tiers that surrounded the central performance area, like a modern open-air stadium.


Variant of theater.


Alternative spelling of theater


A cinema; movie theatre.


A building where theatrical performances or motion-picture shows can be presented;
The house was full


The art of writing and producing plays


A region in which active military operations are in progress;
The army was in the field awaiting action
He served in the Vietnam theater for three years


What is a theatre?

A venue for performing arts, including plays, films, and concerts.

What is an amphitheatre?

An open-air venue with a circular design for large-scale events.

What makes a theatre unique?

Its enclosed design enhances acoustics and audience focus on the stage.

Is the theatre experience different from watching a movie?

Yes, theatre is live with a unique ambiance, while movies are recorded.

Are modern amphitheatres different from ancient ones?

They retain the circular design but often have modern amenities.

What's the difference between a cinema and a theatre?

A cinema specifically shows films, while a theatre can host live performances.

How did ancient amphitheatres differ from theatres?

Amphitheatres were used for public spectacles, theatres for dramatic arts.

Can amphitheatres be used for plays today?

Yes, they are versatile venues suitable for various performances.

What events are suitable for an amphitheatre?

Large concerts, festivals, and outdoor community events.

Are amphitheatres common in modern architecture?

They are popular for their cultural and community value.

Do theatres only show plays?

No, they can host movies, musicals, and other performance arts.

How is sound managed in an amphitheatre?

Sound design in amphitheatres often relies on the structure's natural acoustics.

Can theatres be outdoor venues?

Yes, there are outdoor theatres, but they are not circular like amphitheatres.

How many people can an amphitheatre hold?

They vary in size, with many accommodating thousands of spectators.

Do all theatres have stages?

Most do, but configurations can vary based on the type of performance.

Do amphitheatres have reserved seating?

Some do, while others offer general admission.

Why are amphitheatres open-air?

Historically, to accommodate large crowds and utilize natural lighting.

What role does lighting play in theatre?

It's crucial for setting the mood and focusing attention.

What's a black box theatre?

A versatile, simple performance space, often painted black.

Can any play be performed in an amphitheatre?

Technically yes, but the setting may alter the play's intimacy and acoustics.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons