It’s now less than a week before the second part of my summer cinematic extravaganza takes place. (In case you missed it, the first part was my Inception / Toy Story 3 double bill at the IMAX, and it was a thing of rare beauty and joy.) But all my prep is done; the hire car to get me to and from some Tube station at the end of the Central line is booked, my T-shirts, one of which is custom made, have all now arrived, I have my ticket for one of the Saturday night previews as well, and all there is left to do is to sit back and wait for the excitement to start.
In the expectant pause between now and then, I’ve found myself wondering exactly what I’m getting myself into. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but one thing that struck me reading this article about audience reactions at Screen Rant this morning made me realise that I’ve always missed a little of the American brashness at the cinema – us Brits can be a little too reserved sometimes. Sure, I’m no fan of loud popcorn munching, mobile phones or discussing what you had for breakfast in a stage whisper, and the cinema experience is usually better without distractions. But sometimes it’s the investment of those around you that really makes the experience and sets it apart from watching on even a good home cinema set-up.
The opening movie is The Expendables. I’ve been looking forward to this all summer long, and even more so after the relative disappointments of The Losers and The A Team, its two nearest cousins in this summer’s entertainment. But although it’s not getting the best reviews at present, what gives me hope is the audience I’ll be seeing it with, especially after this Guardian article’s recommendation on how to see it.
So what I’m hoping for is that rowdy audience, and from reading accounts of the first two MovieCons I’ll not be disappointed. I’m hoping to bring home some good audience memories from the experience, but for now I thought I’d just share my own top list of movie audience moments that I’ve experienced over the years – it would be so great to see something next weekend break into this list.
I’ve now been witness to three rounds of applause at screenings I’ve been to (LOTR: The Return of the King and Toy Story 3 being the other two), but this felt the most spontaneous and also the most polite, almost as if we’d just watched an early round at a minor snooker tournament rather than Quentin Tarantino’s third best film. Still, I joined in.
The first time I ever experienced this particular effect, when the end credits started rolling, nobody got up from their seat. The showing I was at was around two-thirds full, but in this instance not a single person got up and left until the final credit rolled. An unusual mark of respect for an excellent film.
I saw this more than once at the cinema, as there wasn’t much else on at the time and in those days, weekday matinées were cheap. Every time I saw it, the same reaction occurred – during the central theft, at the point when Jean Reno drops his knife, the audience to a man or woman inhales like their life depended on it. One on occasion this effect was improved by a man right at the back shouting “Oh, shit!” the moment everyone had gone quiet.
The Farrelly brothers only made one genuinely great comedy, and this is it. There are many famous and iconic moments, but early on, the one which I’m sure lived longest in the minds of the audience was when Ben Stiller’s Ted zipped his flies too quickly. There’s a very brief shot of the actual damage, just brief enough for the audience not to register exactly what’s happened, but enough that most of them started screaming like it was a horror movie.
I saw this at a packed house at a university film night. The tension of the scene in question, with the Beethoven soundtrack and Kathy Bates’ wonderfully measured performance, has already ramped up before she puts the block of wood between his legs. When the hammer appears in shot, the screaming started. When she went round to do the other leg, some people lost it completely. A scene that’s completely different to its source material, but all the more effective for it.
There’s something about watching a horror movie with an audience, especially a really dumb one. You wouldn’t expect the youth of Cambridge to be so easily taken in, but there you go. I heard the mutterings from a few places in the scenes around me before the start that people believed this to be a documentary – the near hysteria by the end was not only then not surprising, but added that much more to the experience.
I have to confess to almost walking out of Orphan, not because of the movie itself, but because of the restless audience who were talking and generally not involved in the film. Something happened about half way in, not at a specific time, but gradually the mood of the audience shifted, and soon they were completely wrapped up, shouting and cheering each outlandish plot development. It made what should have been a 5/10 movie into a 7/10 experience for me. Thanks, youngsters!
Sometimes you don’t realise how much noise is actually going on in a cinema, with the shuffling of feet, coughing, background sweet-paper rustling and other general noise-making. However, at the climax of Twelve Monkeys, both times I saw it with an audience, there’s a moment when you realise everyone is completely caught up and there’s complete silence in the cinema, which only serves to make it a more powerful moment.
I love seeing comedies with a packed audience. But just to remind me that I’m not the intellectual superior of my peer group, the two films I’ve probably laughed at longest, hardest and most often in a cinema in the last ten years would be these two (although for movies with a story it would be Dodgeball or Anchorman). Sometimes the crazy laugh of someone sitting with you can elevate the whole experience – although in the second one, the rest of the audience nearly got to hear me vomit during the drinking of the horse… (sorry, excuse me…)
If you’ve seen the film, you’ve heard the noise at the end. For those fascinated with human behaviour such as myself, it’s almost reason enough to go back to see it again – as long as there’s a good crop of people seeing it for the first time. That noise needs to be an added extra on the Blu-ray release, won’t be the same without it.