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The convergence of circumstances that made the theatre such a popular entertainment in the Elizabethan age involves a number of factors.
First, Queen Elizabeth herself loved the theatre, and this set a tone for her people to follow. Just as popular trends in dress and music and entertainments are set often by celebrities and those with a high profile, so Elizabeth's likes and dislikes set the "fads" for this time period.
Another reason that it was popular can be seen in comparison to our enjoyment of both movies and sports events. We love the intrigues and supsenses, the fantastical settings and circumstances, the love and horror and action of invented stories in movies. The Elizabethans looked at theatre as just the same sort of combination of entertaining escape and insight into our human condition.
And as for comparing the Elizabethan theatre to sports events, this is the best analogy that I can find for those of us here in the 21st century to understand the sort of atmosphere an audience could expect back in the 16th century at theaters like The Globe. People laughed, talked, booed and cheered all during the performances, and attending a theatrical performance was as much about an opportunity to see and talk with friends and neighbors as it was a chance to see a good, entertaining play. The performances were often accompanied by other popular entertainments like bear baiting as well. So maybe a carnival or fair is also a good modern analogy.
Over all, the drama was a major entertainment attraction, and though it had its detractors (The Puritans saw the theatre of this time as "wicked" and "profane."), it was wildly popular for it's fun, entertaining qualities, as well as it's ability to hold a mirror up to nature.
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