1. An audience (of a speech, performance, lecture, etc.) that is prevented from leaving and is therefore obligated to listen. Our boss made attendance at the panel discussion mandatory, thus ensuring a captive audience.
2. An audience that is enraptured by and gives the entirety of its attention to a speaker or performance. The key to maintaining a captive audience is to make sure your speech appeals to everyone present.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
Listeners or onlookers who have no choice but to attend. For example, It's a required course and, knowing he has a captive audience, the professor rambles on endlessly . This expression, first recorded in 1902, uses captive in the sense of "unable to escape."
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
An audience that cannot escape a particular presentation—a speech, play, sermon, or the like. For example, “The preacher always makes his sermon twice as long on big holidays—he knows he’s got a captive audience.” This phrase originated in the United States about 1900.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer