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Audience Can Enhance Moviegoing Experience

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You know how annoying it is when those two people behind you use their we're-in-a-crowded-restaurant voices to comment on the movie you're watching?

"She's going to talk to him."

"She has different buttons on her coat."

"Oh, no."

"He's coming back."

Thanks for the illumination, ladies at Penelope who I am sure are lovely women despite their whisper-negligence. Rustle some candy wrappers and tap your foot loudly, and you're on your way to an hour and 52 minutes of distracted, increasingly frustrated viewing, for which you paid only $5 to $15.

Sometimes, though, a crowd can enhance your moviegoing experience. The gasps. The sighs of relief. The self-amused laughter. This was what I found when I watched Vantage Point on a recent Saturday night.

Vantage Point is an ideal film for the watch-it-with-a-crowd experience. In the movie, an assassination and two bombs interrupt — in tense, startling fashion — a U.S. presidential appearance in Spain. Critics weren't particularly fond of the film, but I found it well-written, well-edited (for the most part), and rather exciting, as did others apparently. After one build-up that ends abruptly, to be completed later on, an audible sigh of relief and built-up tension sounded from throughout the theater. During another scene, I gasped internally and heard a woman behind me gasp aloud at the same time.

This shared audience response, in a crowd of few friends and lots of strangers, sure beats the easily annoyed isolation of driving home from work on roads full of faceless drivers who do stupid things. It's preferable to the anonymous hostility of message board abusers, and the easy way a stranger at the next table or in the row behind us can drive us nuts with their coughing or their raucous laughter.

So I'll happily recall watching Vantage Point surrounded by a gasping audience, to remind myself that strangers aren't always as far away as they seem, that we don't have to know each other to enjoy each other's company sometimes — and that I should let it go when people's minor quirks and mistakes bother me.

And while we're on the topic of these fun shared experiences, I want to know: What about yours?

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About Melissa Cuppett

  • Seeing the Star Wars films in theatre was always a treat, especially the re-releases of the “original trilogy.” People were really into the spirit of things and the cheers were incredibly loud. Lord of the Rings really started to hit on those moments, too, making the experience of seeing those films with a large group something incredibly unique.

    Nice article.

  • The crowd I saw Vantage Point with just laughed it off the screen. And rightfully so.

    About the fifth time it rewound, just before the clock came up, someone gave a Flavor Flav “Yeaahh… you know what time it is?” and the theater roared.

  • Movies are meant to be a communal experience, even if the community is temporary (the audience in a theater). Comedies in particular benefit if only because laughter really does seem to be contagious. Believe it or not, a Marx Brothers comedy – even “The Coconuts” – is funnier with an audience than when viewed alone. Sadly, the past generation has seen the decline and fall of the “rep house” theaters where you could see old movies with an audience.

  • Starr

    Seeing There Will Be Blood in a crowded theatre was fantastic. I loved the slightly hesitant, self-aware laughter at certain moments (there was a sense of, “That was REALLY funny, but should I be laughing?”) that gave way to full-fledged laughter once everyone realized that it was okay, the gasps at exciting moments, the tangible ripples of disbelief at surprises. I don’t think that I’m ever going to enjoy that movie again as much as I did then.

  • Believe it or not, a Marx Brothers comedy – even “The Coconuts” – is funnier with an audience than when viewed alone.

    Oh, absolutely. I remember going to see a Laurel and Hardy retrospective at the National Film Theatre in London some years ago, having previously only seen them on TV. It was a joyous and memorable experience to view the films as part of a roaring audience in a packed theatre – they way they were meant to be seen.

    Shared mirth enhances the comedy – which is why most TV sitcoms have a live audience or a laugh track.

  • Obviously, someone’s never been to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” during an audience participation night…

  • I’ve seen the live show. Even better.

    What’s your point, Jet?