The Ultimate Guide to Theater Seating for Events

Theater seating is a style of commonly used event layout, comprised of chairs aligned in consecutive straight rows, generally facing a single direction. It is sometimes called stadium seating or auditorium seating.

Here we explore the types of events during which theater seating is best to use, standard setup formats, a variety of customizations you can implement to achieve your events objectives, and some advantages and disadvantages of this unique seating arrangement. Plus, how to set it up! Read on to see if theater style is the perfect seating chart layout for your next event.

What is theater seating?

Theater style seating is an arrangement of chairs in rows, arcs or circles that all face the same direction in the venue space. There are no tables, desks, or additional furniture used in theater style seating. Many events use this style because it is the simplest to implement, as it generally reflects the default seating already found in the selected venue, such as a theatre, stadium, or cinema.

Types of theater seating

The auditorium seating layout can either be set up as multiple-aisle or continental. A multiple-aisle arrangement will have a maximum of 14–16 chairs per row with access to an aisle-way at both ends. If an aisle can be reached from one end of a row only, the seat count may then be limited to 7 or 8. The maximum quantities are always established by the governing building code, which is something the venue will be aware of.

In a continental arrangement, all seats are located in a central section. In the continental style, you can fit even more chairs per row than multiple-aisle arrangement. In order to compensate for the greater length of rows allowed, building codes generally require wider row spacing, wider aisles, and strategically located exit doors. For early planning, an average of 7.5 sq ft. per person may be used. Perhaps surprisingly, a continental arrangement can often accommodate more seating within the same space.

Regardless of the arrangement you choose, when setting up for theater style you can further position the chairs a variety of ways such as in straight rows, circular rows, semi-circular rows, and angles rows toward the event’s focal point. And the customization doesn’t have to stop there. There are quite a few ways you can adapt your theater seating:

  • Give guests a clear view even if someone taller sits in front of them, by offsetting the rows from one another.
  • Ensure guests have comfortable seating by leaving some room between each banquet chairs because they’re typically narrower than the average person’s body.
  • Make it easier for guests to get in and get out of their rows to go to the bathroom, leave early, etc by creating a minimum of 24 inches between the rows.
  • Consider where the presenter will be. This will help determine the sight lines and aid in placement of the first seat–the seat furthest to the left when standing in the audience.
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Types of events that use theater style seating

Theater seating is a practical setup style for tons of events. The theater style layout is ideal for events where guests are there to be an audience and observe, not participate. It’s also a great fit for events where your attendees don’t need a lot of space to do things such as eat, take notes, or mingle with each other.

Theater style seating is a great fit for:

  • Conferences
  • Lectures
  • Presentations
  • Wedding ceremonies
  • Product launches

For example, Cvent recently held its company-wide meeting in Washington DC’s Warner Theater. This was a half-day event where employees learned all about the company’s plans for the next year. Because the goal of the event was learning and celebration, the theater style seating helped keep everyone focused on the presentations at the center of the room. TEDTalks are another great example because the focus is on the presenter, not on encouraging discussion from the audience members. And finally, it’s also a great fit for product launches such as Apple’s iPhone launches, and conferences such as Cvent CONNECT and Hubspot’s INBOUND.

Theater style seating is not a great fit for:

  • Book clubs
  • Birthday parties
  • Brainstorming meetings

Advantage of theater seating arrangements

When it comes to theater seating, there are a number of reasons why it can improve your event:

  • It makes it easy for the presenter to see everyone and to call on anyone.
  • It helps keep everyone’s focus in the right place because all of the seats are facing towards one place.
  • It also makes very economical use of the venue space and ensures maximum seating capacity.
  • It makes people get to know their neighbors! Because the seats are quite close together people end up talking to others to their left and right.
  • But it also keeps everyone quiet because there are really only two people they could talk to.

Disadvantages of theater seating arrangements

There are also a number of reasons why it might not be the right fit for your event:

  • It can be a challenge for audience members to go to the bathroom or leave early, because they’ll need to push past a number of other guests with minimal space.
  • Aisles have to be created in order to make seats accessible, and aisles take up valuable space. They can also become jammed quickly, and begin to irritate attendees.
  • Because each seat doesn’t have a lot of room, there’s no good place for each guest to place a computer, notebook, or a plate of food or drink.
  • There’s also not a good place for guests to store their personal items such as jackets or book bags.
  • Guests will mostly only be able to talk to people right next to them, as everyone else is facing forward, so it’s not great for fueling discussion.

A quick visual guide to theater seating

Seating Chart Guide

Made by Theatre Solutions Inc.

Made by Theatre Solutions Inc.

How to create theater row seating with Social Tables

Using Social Tables smart seating chart, theater row seating is easy to create in a few minutes. Curved and Chevron style seating are quick and easy when using our templates feature. You’ll be on the road to success in no time when you follow these steps:

Here’s how to make theater curved style seating:

  1. From the left panel, click on the Templates tab and select Theater as your template type
  2. From the right panel, edit the number of chairs per row, the direction you would like the chairs to face, as well as the spacing of the chairs, rows, and columns
  3. Click into the floorplan, while holding down your left mouse pointer and drag out a box, as the template will populate inside of that area
  4. Finally, from the right panel, move the Curve slider to apply a curve to your template

Here’s how to create auditorium chevron style seating:

  1. From the left panel, click on the Templates tab and select Theater or Classroom as the template type
  2. From the right panel, edit the number of chairs or tables per row, the direction you would like the chairs or tables to face, as well as the spacing of the chairs, rows, and columns
  3. Click into the floorplan, while holding down your left mouse pointer and drag out a box, as the template will populate inside of that area
  4. Finally, from the right panel, under the Alignment header edit the row angle

You can even set default measurements to save time!

With theater row template defaults you can even create standards and set measurements for theater rows, which should save you time on every setup. The Theater Row template default can be found as an option in the Template dropdown within the Defaults tab of Administrator Settings. After you make some changes here, you’ll find your new default as an option in the Template Type menu whenever you add a theater row template default.

Check out the image below to see it in action:

Get started with Social Tables now, because your theater row seating diagram will set your next event up for success. And don’t forget to check out our Seating Chart Maker!

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