The term is taken from Latin (from audītōrium, from audītōrius (“‘pertaining to hearing’”)); the concept is taken from the Greek auditorium, which had a series of semi-circular seating shelves in the theatre, divided by broad 'belts', called diazomata, with eleven rows of seats between each.
The auditorium of the Municipal Theatre, Regensburg, Germany
The price charged for seats in each part of the auditorium (known in the industry as the house) usually varies according to the quality of the view of the stage. The seating areas can include some or all of the following:
Stalls or arena: the lower flat area, usually below or at the same level as the stage.
Balconies or galleries: one or more raised seating platforms towards the rear of the auditorium. In larger theatres, multiple levels are stacked vertically above or behind the stalls. The first level is usually called the dress circle or grand circle. The highest platform, or upper circle is sometimes known as the gods, especially in large opera houses, where the seats can be very high and a long distance from the stage.
Boxes: typically placed immediately to the front, side and above the level of the stage. They are often separate rooms with an open viewing area which typically seat only a handful of people. These seats are typically considered the most prestigious of the house. A state box or royal box is sometimes provided for dignitaries.