When the credits began to roll after the wonder of a film that was Sam Mendes’ Skyfall, the majority of the audience in Odeon Leicester Square joined in a spontaneous round of applause, accompanied by whoops and cheers. I heartily joined in with this at the expense of being shot bemused looks by the person sitting next to me. It doesn’t make sense. We shouldn’t really clap in a cinema. And yet we do.
It’s not as if we have the entire cast and crew enjoying our rapturous applause. It’s not a play, or a musical performance; no-one tangibly accepts our admiration. But many (me included) still do it. Why do I bring this up? Because I know there to be a certain section of cinemagoers who believe that such clapping is useless, and I can say confidently that they entirely miss the point.
Film is intended to be a social experience. The days of the picture palace are over; screens and audiences are smaller, and yet there is still something quite special about sitting in a packed West End or IMAX cinema waiting to watch the latest highly-anticipated addition to a popular franchise. Skyfall was hyped extensively, but it’s not another Prometheus. As I said in my review, it’s a confident and mature return to one of the most well-known series of films of all time that manages to assert its own artistic slant on the hero. The film is spectacular, the ending leaves you breathless. It demands applause.
Not that we should clap for every film. It is certainly true that a lot of stuff on offer at your local world of cine are not even worthy of the minutest indication of praise. And of course, in smaller cinemas, there is often the awkward moment when something claps loudly and is not joined by the rest of the audience. It happens. Yet there is something incredibly touching when, in a world where people are getting harder to impress in terms of what’s on the silver screen, a film like Skyfall that breaks away from the traditional Bond format (and uses very little noticeable CGI) has gotten such a response as to provoke applause.
Cinema clapping. It doesn’t work all the time, but when it does, don’t look down upon it.