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Banqueters playing kottabos and girl playing the aulos. Greece (c. 420 BCE)
Banqueting and music have continued to be two important entertainments since ancient times.

Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and interest of an audience or gives pleasure and delight. It can be an idea or a task, but is more likely to be one of the activities or events that have developed over thousands of years specifically for the purpose of keeping an audience's attention.[1] Although people's attention is held by different things, because individuals have different preferences in entertainment, most forms are recognisable and familiar. Storytelling, music, drama, dance, and different kinds of performance exist in all cultures, were supported in royal courts, developed into sophisticated forms and over time became available to all citizens. The process has been accelerated in modern times by an entertainment industry that records and sells entertainment products. Entertainment evolves and can be adapted to suit any scale, ranging from an individual who chooses a private entertainment from a now enormous array of pre-recorded products; to a banquet adapted for two; to any size or type of party, with appropriate music and dance; to performances intended for thousands; and even for a global audience.

The experience of being entertained has come to be strongly associated with amusement, so that one common understanding of the idea is fun and laughter, although many entertainments have a serious purpose. This may be the case in the various forms of ceremony, celebration, religious festival, or satire for example. Hence, there is the possibility that what appears as entertainment may also be a means of achieving insight or intellectual growth.

An important aspect of entertainment is the audience, which turns a private recreation or leisure activity into entertainment. The audience may have a passive role, as in the case of persons watching a play, opera, television show, or film; or the audience role may be active, as in the case of games, where the participant/audience roles may be routinely reversed. Entertainment can be public or private, involving formal, scripted performance, as in the case of theatre or concerts; or unscripted and spontaneous, as in the case of children's games. Most forms of entertainment have persisted over many centuries, evolving due to changes in culture, technology, and fashion for example with stage magic. Films and video games, for example, although they use newer media, continue to tell stories, present drama, and play music. Festivals devoted to music, film, or dance allow audiences to be entertained over a number of consecutive days.

Some entertainment, such as public executions, are now illegal in most countries. Activities such as fencing or archery, once used in hunting or war, have become spectator sports. In the same way, other activities, such as cooking, have developed into performances among professionals, staged as global competitions and then broadcast for entertainment. What is entertainment for one group or individual may be regarded as work or an act of cruelty by another.

The familiar forms of entertainment have the capacity to cross over different media and have demonstrated a seemingly unlimited potential for creative remix. This has ensured the continuity and longevity of many themes, images, and structures.

  • 10 Woman listening private

    10 Woman listening privately to music through headphones (Russia, 2010)

  • Games

    Games are played for entertainment—sometimes purely for recreation, sometimes for achievement or reward as well. They can be played alone, in teams, or online; by amateurs or by professionals. The players may have an audience of non-pl

    Games are played for entertainment—sometimes purely for recreation, sometimes for achievement or reward as well. They can be played alone, in teams, or online; by amateurs or by professionals. The players may have an audience of non-players, such as when people are entertained by watching a chess championship. On the other hand, players in a game may constitute their own audience as they take their turn to play. Often, part of the entertainment for children playing a game is deciding who is part of their audience and who is a player.

    Equipment varies with the game. Board games, such as Go, Monopoly or backgammon need a board and markers. One of the oldest known board games is Senet, a game played in Ancient Egypt, enjoy

    Equipment varies with the game. Board games, such as Go, Monopoly or backgammon need a board and markers. One of the oldest known board games is Senet, a game played in Ancient Egypt, enjoyed by the pharaoh Tutankhamun.[48] Card games, such as whist, poker and Bridge have long been played as evening entertainment among friends. For these games, all that is needed is a deck of playing cards. Other games, such as bingo, played with numerous strangers, have been organised to involve the participation of non-players via gambling. Many are geared for children, and can be played outdoors, including hopscotch, hide and seek, or Blind man's bluff. The list of ball games is quite extensive. It includes, for example, croquet, lawn bowling and paintball as well as many sports using various forms of balls. The options cater to a wide range of skill and fitness levels. Physical games can develop agility and competence in motor skills. Number games such as Sudoku and puzzle games like the Rubik's cube can develop mental prowess.

    Video games are played using a controller to create results on a screen. They can also be played online with participants joining in remotely. In the second half of the 20th century and in the 21st century the number of such games increased enormously, providing a wide variety of entertainment to players around the world.[49][50] Video games are popular across the world.

    Sofonisba Anguissola
    The Chess Game (1555)
    An intellectual game

  • Televised match of StarCraft (2006) South Korea
    An electronic game

  • Literature

    "Of course you all ought to know that while singing a good song or, or giving a good recitation ... helps to arrest the company's attention ... Such at least was the case with me – the publican devised a plan to bring my entertainment to an end abruptly, and the plan was, he told the waiter to throw a wet towel at me, which, of course, the waiter did ... and I received the wet towel, full force, in the face, which staggered me ... and had the desired effect of putting an end to me giving any more entertainments in the house." William McGonagall (publican devised a plan to bring my entertainment to an end abruptly, and the plan was, he told the waiter to throw a wet towel at me, which, of course, the waiter did ... and I received the wet towel, full force, in the face, which staggered me ... and had the desired effect of putting an end to me giving any more entertainments in the house." William McGonagall (Performance artist and poet)[68]

    Storytelling

    Theatre performances, typically dramatic or musical, are presented on a stage for an audience and have a history that goes back to Hellenistic times when "leading musicians and actors" performed widely at "poetical competitions", for example at "Delphi, Delos, Ephesus".[76] Aristotle and his teacher Plato both wrote on the theory and purpose of theatre. Aristotle posed questions such as "What is the function of the arts in shaping character? Should a member of the ruling class merely watch performances or be a participant and perform? What kind of entertainment should be provided for those who do not belong to the elite?"[77] The "Ptolemys in Egypt, the Seleucids in Pergamum" also had a strong theatrical tradition and later, wealthy patrons in Rome staged "far more lavish productions".[78][79]

    Expectations about the performance and their engagement with it have changed over time (1).[80] For example, in England during the 18th century, "the prejudice against actresses had faded"[81] and in Europe generally, going to the theatre, once a socially dubious activity, became "a more respectable middle-class pastime"[82] in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the variety of popular entertainments increased. Operetta and music halls became available, and new drama theatres such as the Moscow Art Theatre and the Suvorin Theatre in Russia opened.[83] At the same time, commercial newspapers "began to carry theatre columns and reviews" that helped make theatre "a legitimate subject of intellectual debate" in general discussions about art and culture.[83] Audiences began to gather to "appreciate crea

    Expectations about the performance and their engagement with it have changed over time (1).[80] For example, in England during the 18th century, "the prejudice against actresses had faded"[81] and in Europe generally, going to the theatre, once a socially dubious activity, became "a more respectable middle-class pastime"[82] in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the variety of popular entertainments increased. Operetta and music halls became available, and new drama theatres such as the Moscow Art Theatre and the Suvorin Theatre in Russia opened.[83] At the same time, commercial newspapers "began to carry theatre columns and reviews" that helped make theatre "a legitimate subject of intellectual debate" in general discussions about art and culture.[83] Audiences began to gather to "appreciate creative achievement, to marvel at, and be entertained by, the prominent 'stars'."[83] Vaudeville and music halls, popular at this time in the United States, England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, were themselves eventually superseded.[84]

    Plays,[85] musicals,[86] monologues, pantomimes, and performance poetry are part of the very long history of theatre, which is also the venue for the type of performance known as stand-up comedy.[87] In the 20th century, radio and television, often broadcast live, extended the theatrical tradition that continued to exist alongside the new forms.

    The stage and the spaces set out in front of it for an audience create a theatre. All types of stage are used with all types of seating for the audience, including the impromptu or improvised (2, 3, 6); the temporary (2); the elaborate (9); or the traditional and permanent (5, 7). They are erected indoors (3, 5, 9) or outdoors (2, 4, 6). The skill of managing, organising and preparing the stage for a performance is known as stagecraft (10). The audience's experience of the entertainment is affected by their expectations, the stagecraft, the type of stage, and the type and standard of seating provided.

    1 Satirical representation of audience reaction (1809)

  • 2 Improvised stage for a

    2 Improvised stage for a public performance at a fair (1642)

  • 3 Improvised stage for domestic theatre

  • 5 Concert theatre ready for solo instrumentalist 5 Concert theatre ready for solo instrumentalist

  • 6 Outdoor theatre c

    6 Outdoor theatre created from Edinburgh castle forecourt

  • 8 Stage for

    8 Stage for theatre in the round

  • 9 Teatro Colón, a highly decorative, horseshoe theatre

  • 10 Stagecraft – a 10 Stagecraft – a locking rail backstage

  • Cinema and film

    Films are a major form of entertainment, although not all films have entertainment as their primary purpose: documentary film, for example, aims to create a record or inform,[88] although the two purposes often work together. The medium was a global business from the beginning: "The Lumière brothers were the first to send cameramen throughout the world, instructing them to film everything which could be of interest for the public."[89] In 1908, Pathé launched and distributed newsreels[89] and by World War I, films were meeting an enormous need for mass entertainment. "In the first decade of the [20th] century cinematic programmes combined, at random, fictions and newsfilms."[89] The Americans first "contrived a way of producing an illusion of motion through successive images," but "the French were able to transform a scientific principle into a commercially lucrative spectacle".[90] Film therefore became a part of the entertainment industry from its early days. Increasingly sophisticated techniques have been used in the film medium to delight and entertain audiences. Animation, for example, which involves the display of rapid movement in an art work, is one of these techniques that particularly appeals to younger audiences.[91] The advent of computer-generated imagery (CGI) in the 21st century made it "possible to do spectacle" more cheaply and "on a scale never dreamed of" by Cecil B. DeMille.[92] From the 1930s to 1950s, movies and radio were the "only mass entertainment" but by the second decade of the 21st century, technological changes, economic decisions, risk aversion and globalisation reduced both the quality and range of films being produced.[93] Sophisticated visual effects and CGI techniques, for example, rather than humans, were used not only to create realistic images of people, landscapes and events (both real and fantastic) but also to animate non-living items such as Lego normally used as entertainment as a game in physical form.[94] Creators of The Lego Movie "wanted the audience to believe they were looking at actual Lego bricks on a tabletop that were shot with a real camera, not what we actually did, which was create vast environments with digital bricks inside the computer."[94] The convergence of computers and film has allowed entertainment to be presented in a new way and the technology has also allowed for those with the personal resources to screen films in a home theatre, recreating in a private venue the quality and experience of a public theatre. This is similar to the way that the nobility in earlier times could stage private musical performances or the use of domestic theatres in large homes to perform private plays in earlier centuries.

    Films also re-imagine entertainment from other forms, turning stories, books and plays, for example, into new entertainments.[95] The Story of Film, a documentary about the history of film, gives a survey of global achievements and innovations in the medium, as well as changes in the conception of film-making. It demonstrates that while some films, particularly those in the Hollywood tradition that combines "realism and melodramatic romanticism",[96] are intended as a form of escapism, others require a deeper engagement or more thoughtful response from their audiences. For example, the award-winning Senegalese film Xala takes government corruption as its theme. Charlie Chaplin's film The Great Di

    Films also re-imagine entertainment from other forms, turning stories, books and plays, for example, into new entertainments.[95] The Story of Film, a documentary about the history of film, gives a survey of global achievements and innovations in the medium, as well as changes in the conception of film-making. It demonstrates that while some films, particularly those in the Hollywood tradition that combines "realism and melodramatic romanticism",[96] are intended as a form of escapism, others require a deeper engagement or more thoughtful response from their audiences. For example, the award-winning Senegalese film Xala takes government corruption as its theme. Charlie Chaplin's film The Great Dictator was a brave and innovative parody, also on a political theme. Stories that are thousands of years old, such as Noah, have been re-interpreted in film, applying familiar literary devices such as allegory and personification with new techniques such as CGI to explore big themes such as "human folly", good and evil, courage and despair, love, faith, and death – themes that have been a main-stay of entertainment across all its forms.[97]

    As in other media, excellence and achievement in films is recognised through a range of awards, including ones from the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, the Cannes International Film Festival in France and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

    The many forms of dance provide entertainment for all age groups and cultures. Dance can be serious in tone, such as when it is used to express a culture's history or important stories; it may be provocative; or it may put in the service of comedy. Since it combines many forms of entertainment – music, movement, storytelling, theatre – it provides a good example of the various ways that these forms can be combined to create entertainment for different purposes and audiences.

    Dance is "a form of cultural representation" that involves not just dancers, but "choreographers, audience members, patrons and impresarios ... coming from all over the globe and from vastly varied time periods."[98] Whether from Africa, Asia or Europe, dance is constantly negotiating the realms of political, social, spiritual and artistic influence."[99] Even though dance traditions may be limited to one cultural group, they all develop. For example, in Africa, there are "Dahomean dances, Hausa dances, Masai dances and so forth."[100] Ballet is an example of a highly developed Western form of dance that moved to the theatres from the French court during the time of Louis XIV, the dancers becoming professional theatrical performers.[101] Some dances, such as the quadrille, a square dance that "emerged during the Napoleonic years in France"[102] and other country dances[103] were once popular at social gatherings like balls,[104][105] but are now rarely performed. On the other hand, many folk dances (such as Scottish Highland dancing and Irish dancing), have evolved into competitions, which by adding to their audiences, has increased their entertainment value. "Irish dance theatre, which sometimes features traditional Irish steps and music, has developed into a major dance form with an international reputation."[106]

    Since dance is often "associated with the female body and women's experiences",[99] female dancers, who dance to entertain, have in some cases been regarded as distinct from "decent" women because they "use their bodies to make a living instead of hiding them as much as possible".[107] Society's attitudes to female dancers depend on the culture, its history and the entertainment industry itself. For example, while some cultures regard any dancing by women as "the most shameful form of entertainment",[108] other cultures have established venues such as strip clubs where deliberately erotic or sexually provocative dances such as striptease are performed in public by professional women dancers for mostly male audiences.

    Various political regimes have sought to control or ban dancing or specific types of dancing, sometimes because of disapproval of the music or clothes associated with it. Nationalism, authoritarianism and racism have played a part in banning dances or dancing. For example, during the Nazi regime, American dances such as swing, regarded as "completely un-German", had "become a public offense and needed to be banned".[109] Similarly, in Shanghai, China, in the 1930s, "dancing and nightclubs had come to symbolise the excess that plagued Chinese society" and officials wondered if "other forms of entertainment such as brothels" should also be banned. Banning had the effect of making "the dance craze" even greater.[110] In Ireland, the Public Dance Hall Act of 1935 "banned – but did not stop – dancing at the crossroads and other popular dance forms such as house and barn dances."[106] In the US, various dances were once banned, either because like burlesque, they were suggestive,[111] or because, like the Twist, they were associated with African Americans.[112] "African American dancers were typically banned from performing in minstrel shows until after the Civil War."[113]

    Dances can be performed solo (1, 4); in pairs, (

    Dance is "a form of cultural representation" that involves not just dancers, but "choreographers, audience members, patrons and impresarios ... coming from all over the globe and from vastly varied time periods."[98] Whether from Africa, Asia or Europe, dance is constantly negotiating the realms of political, social, spiritual and artistic influence."[99] Even though dance traditions may be limited to one cultural group, they all develop. For example, in Africa, there are "Dahomean dances, Hausa dances, Masai dances and so forth."[100] Ballet is an example of a highly developed Western form of dance that moved to the theatres from the French court during the time of Louis XIV, the dancers becoming professional theatrical performers.[101] Some dances, such as the quadrille, a square dance that "emerged during the Napoleonic years in France"[102] and other country dances[103] were once popular at social gatherings like balls,[104][105] but are now rarely performed. On the other hand, many folk dances (such as Scottish Highland dancing and Irish dancing), have evolved into competitions, which by adding to their audiences, has increased their entertainment value. "Irish dance theatre, which sometimes features traditional Irish steps and music, has developed into a major dance form with an international reputation."[106]

    Since dance is often "associated with the female body and women's experiences",[99] female dancers, who dance to entertain, have in some cases been regarded as distinct from "decent" women because they "use their bodies to make a living instead of hiding them as much as possible".[107] Society's attitudes to female dancers depend on the culture, its history and the entertainment industry itself. For example, while some cultures regard any dancing by women as "the most shameful form of entertainment",[108] other cultures have established venues such as strip clubs where deliberately erotic or sexually provocative dances such as striptease are performed in public by professional women dancers for mostly male audiences.

    Various political regimes have sought to control or ban dancing or specific types of dancing, sometimes because of disapproval of the music or clothes associated with it. Nationalism, authoritarianism and racism have played a part in banning dances or dancing. For example, during the Nazi regime, American dances such as swing, regarded as "completely un-German", had "become a public offense and needed to be banned".[109] Similarly, in Shanghai, China, in the 1930s, "dancing and nightclubs had come to symbolise the excess that plagued Chinese society" and officials wondered if "other forms of entertainment such as brothels" should also be banned. Banning had the effect of making "the dance craze" even greater.[110] In Ireland, the Public Dance Hall Act of 1935 "banned – but did not stop – dancing at the crossroads and other popular dance forms such as house and barn dances."[106] In the US, various dances were once banned, either because like burlesque, they were suggestive,[111] or because, like the Twist, they were associated with African Americans.[112] "African American dancers were typically banned from performing in minstrel shows until after the Civil War."[113]

    Dances can be performed solo (1, 4); in pairs, (2, 3); in groups, (5, 6, 7); or by massed performers (10). They might be improvised (4, 8) or highly choreographed (1, 2, 5, 10); spontaneous for personal entertainment, (such as when children begin dancing for themselves); a private audience, (4); a paying audience (2); a world audience (10); or an audience interested in a particular dance genre (3, 5). They might be a part of a celebration, such as a wedding or New Year (6, 8); or a cultural ritual with a specific purpose, such as a dance by warriors like a haka (7). Some dances, such as traditional dance in 1 and ballet in 2, need a very high level of skill and training; others, such as the can-can, require a very high level of energy and physical fitness. Entertaining the audience is a normal part of dance but its physicality often also produces joy for the dancers themselves (9).

    1 Traditional dancer (Thailand)

  • Harlequin and Columbine (Denmark)

  • 3 Ballroom dancing (Czech Republic)

  • 4 Belly dancer (Morocco)

  • Morris dancing (England)

  • 6 Highland wedding (Scotland, 1780)

  • Highland wedding (Scotland, 1780)