Box office, box seat

Posted by Bob on March 23, 2002

In Reply to: Box office, box seat posted by ESC on March 22, 2002

: : Hi,

: : Does anyone know why the ticket booth of a theater or other entertainment venue is called the "box office"?
: : A private seating area in a theater is called a "box" and reserved seats for sporting events are called "box seats," but why are they called that?

: : Just wondering :)
: : CM

: BOX OFFICE - "Most likely 'box office' derives from the theater office that sold box seats to customers. But an old story insists that the expression originated in Elizabethan times, when theater admission was collected by passing a box attached to a long stick among the audience." Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

: The Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988) gives the same origin and discounts the collection story also.

: Neither source says why a "box seat" is a "box seat."

A proper box seat is separated from other seats by a rectangular railing, and/or separate entrance, marking off a territory to keep Our Crowd from rubbing shoulders with The Riff Raff. (Well, it's more civilized than urinating in a big circle.) You can still see this kind of "box" at certain venues: racetracks, older theatres and opera houses, etc. But when "box seat" was assumed to be merely the most expensive seat, some theatre owners began describing the first x rows as box seats.