At long last cinemas are (as of writing) back to max capacity. Filled out seats with the right, passionate audience can become an overwhelming and unforgettable experience that can turn modest fans into crazed superfans through the infectious atmosphere. In celebration of the easing of cinema restrictions, our writers look back at some of their greatest times at the cinema.
Avengers: Endgame (2019), dir. Joe and Anthony Russo
For me, the most memorable case for a chock-full auditorium was made by Avengers: Endgame. After the airtight and admittedly very enjoyable Infinity War, my MCU ambivalence became authentic excitement as the Russo Brothers were to carry the universe into some kind of finality. We know now that “finality” was definitely the wrong word, but the big-stakes, cultural event-level hype that was tearing through the internet in regard to Endgame was infectious. The screening lived up to this; you wouldn’t have been able to take a breath in the deathly silence that followed Iron Man’s send-off, not to mention the contagious cheering in response to moments such as “I am Iron Man” and Cap with Mjolnir. The crowd applauded the film in its closing moments, a rarity in Britain’s commercial cinemas, and buzzed with muttered discussion as we all waited for a post-credits scene that never came. Say what you will about the MCU (I certainly have), but Endgame was a brilliant theatrical experience, and one I treasure even more with current pandemic context.
‘Doctor Who: The Day Of The Doctor’ (2013), dir. Nick Hurran
The 50th anniversary special of my favourite show at that time was being screened in my local cinema. With a packed crowd, and 3D format, it was spectacular.
I’ve never been to another cinema screening where people came dressed as all kinds of characters from a franchise – even really obscure characters. Normally in a screening people don’t respond with such enthusiasm (laughing raucously, gasping, cheering) and they certainly don’t break into spontaneous applause when the end credits roll. Then again when the credits finish. (I still remember the reaction to Tom Baker’s voice booming through the speakers without warning)
Part of that was down to the fact that, unlike other films, this one hadn’t been advance previewed for any critics, so we had little idea what to expect. We were also Doctor Who fans, and incredibly excited. Because regardless of what happened – and the episode remains an overall triumph – this anniversary was an incredible achievement for our favourite show. Doctor Who may have dwindled since then, both in my consciousness and in that of the wider public (sorry, luv, it’s all part of growing up), but this remains an incredible moment to remember.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019), J.J. Abrams
Packed cinemas can unquestionably enhance the experience of a film. The Vader corridor scene, Thor’s arrival in Wakanda and Tarantino’s ‘Manson Murders’ are all scenes made euphoric with a packed crowd. But the reverse can also happen with awful films. Take the final film in the Skywalker Saga.
At a packed midnight screening, there was zero excitement for this flaccid climax to a once worshipped franchise. The audience response to General Hux’s “I’m the spy” was far greater than any other *wow* or *gasp* moment, such as Chewbacca’s fake-out death. The audience was soon laughing at the film rather than with it, as if the memes were writing themselves as the story played out. The dismayed groans during the Reylo kiss, the cringe of the “Rey… Skywalker” and the burying of Anakin’s lightsabre in sand (“he doesn’t like it!” remarked one member) all prompted much merriment. Alone this film would have been a disaster to wearily trudge through. In a full auditorium it transcended its own context and became an accidental cathartic end to an appalling set of three films.