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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

question of the day: What’s your favorite or most powerful memory of a communal moviegoing experience?

If you’ve seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes in a multiplex with a large crowd, you may have experienced a phenomenon that’s been reported by many moviegoers this summer, of one particular moment causing the entire crowd — or near enough to make no difference — to gasp in stunned shock.
As Tim Popple wrote this weekend at Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second in an essay about the power of shared movie experiences:

It’s common to laugh together at the jokes, or to jump together at the cheap scares. It’s less common to gasp together…

I agree. The onscreen moment is so perfect and the offscreen reaction so contributory to the power of the experience of it that it has been, for me, the best reminder of why I love going to the movies, and why no amount of solitary moviewatching at home could ever replace the experience of watching with a crowd, the two are such qualitatively different things.

Or they should be. Unfortunately, moments like that happening at Apes screenings are all too rare. Often my communal moviegoing involves me not laughing at what’s happening onscreen while the crowd around me roars, as happened with Bridesmaids earlier this summer.

What about you?

What’s your favorite or most powerful memory of a communal moviegoing experience?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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