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One of the Crowd

Last night I was in Leif Erikson Park with roughly a thousand other people watching Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was a great way to spend a hot summer evening, sitting next to the lake on blankets watching the mother of all summer movies. Everyone was remarking on how many people kept coming and coming, and I started thinking of act of being in an audience.

3D-Cinema-Audience.jpgI mean, a movie is just more fun as a shared experience. Why? Empathy. Empathy is as natural to humans as breathing. We can empathize with people around us even if we've never met them and can't speak their language. And when you experience art with others, dimensions open up in unexpected ways. You see a different movie in an audience than you do alone. As a father I particularly like watching movies I knew from long ago with my kids. It's like watching them for the first time, because they are watching them for the first time.

The problem I have with the internet is that it is, in essence, a solo event. Even when you send videos to your friends and relatives and you see the same thing, you don't usually see it together. So everyone is seeing the Diet Coke and Mentos guys with their own eyes, their own point of view, their own prejudices. While we can then blog about it and share notes, we don't have that visceral experience of seeing it together. We don't get the subtle shift of their bodies, whether they snicker or guffaw, the timing of a sigh.

Oh, and don't forget the downside. Audiences can be annoying. Cell phones can ring, children can cry, people can have inappropriately loud conversations... and all that happened last night. But, partly because we were outside and I'd seen this movie a dozen times anyhow, I didn't care. The audience was as much a reason to be there as the movie itself.

So, what was your most recent experience of being in an audience?

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