Please explain why some people clap after seeing a good movie in a theater

Really, those out there who do this, WHY?

There isn’t someone who is in the theater who was in the movie, the production of the movie and there isn’t even a teenage ticket collector in the room (who you might thank for making it possible for you to see the movie).

Is it just me who has seen these people?

We had a thread about this recently.

Generally in Ann Arbor it happen in the artsy movie houses, so it’s an entirely diffeent issue and I think what was covered in that other thread.

For a big-budget movie, maybe it is the audiences’ way of interacting with each other. I mean, you sit there in the dark, not talking, with 100 other people, all watching the same thing. Maybe you laugh at the same time, but otherwise it’s a bizarrely insular experience. To burst into applause at the end is a way of saying “Hot damn, I liked that, who else?”

The people I’ve seen doing this don’t usually clap wildly while looking around at the felow consumers smiling and asking their opinions on how it went. I just saw “High Crimes” and a few people clapped lightly (and not all that enthusiastically) maybe 5 or six times then got up and left (without really paying much attention to anyone else) just like the rest of us.

I’m with Cranky on this: I don’t think people are clapping for the moviemakers, they’re clapping for themselves.

Movies are a communal experience (or they used to be, before entire generations of people who don’t know how to shut up and just watch the movie came into being). Applauding at a great movie moment, or cheering at the end of a film, is an impulse of the audience to share the experience with each other. After all, comedies play much better in a crowded theater than in your living room, and you don’t often find yourself cheering when you watch a movie alone. But in a theater, you do.

The sad part is that, with the home video revolution (which I also love for its own merits) has kind of ruined the collective idea that you go to a movie to enjoy it with several thousand other people.

Good question, while I think people who boo at the trailers are idiots (they can’t hear you!) I’ll admit I’ve applauded for quite a few movies at the end. I’m with Cranky* though and think it’s just a natural reaction to being excited and/or happy. Same way you’ll clap for a great catch when you watch a baseball game on TV.
*T-shirt AND Band Name!

The only times I’ve really seen this is at movies geared toward children. I always figured it was the parent’s way of teaching their children that it’s polite to honor the people who worked on the film/play/concert/etc. by clapping at the end of performances.

I applauded at the one and only premiere I’ve ever been to. Was that okay? I mean, since some of the folks responsible for the movie really were there?

Who could resist clapping wildly and cheering when Chris Makepeace punched out Matt Dillon in My Bodyguard? Then laughter when the MD says incredulously, “You broke my nose!” Sometimes the reaction is a part of being involved in the story. I’ve always thought of applause at the end of a movie as a response to a particularly good ending.

It is sometimes just a collective release. While I enjoy the movies IMMENSELY, I am not a huge HUGE “Star Wars” fan. Having said that, when we went to see Episode I when it came out a few years ago, as SOON as the music started and the screen crawl began at the start of the movie, the place errupted in applause and cheers. Everyone there had been waiting so long to sit in a theatre and share the experience of a new Star Wars movie.

And, never assume that none of the cast or crew is sitting in that theater. :stuck_out_tongue: In a big enough city, there are always some crew members going out to the movies.


The crowd clapped today when Spiderman ended. There were mostly kids in the theater though, so I thought it was kind of cute.

I remember being in the fourth grade, watching the Challenger take off…we were all clapping right up until the explosion.

It’s just a natural way to show support, enjoyment, and appreciation as a group for something well done.

I clap at the end of groovy movies. And it’s for the reasons Cranky cited. I also clapped at the SW Episode 2 trailers that I’ve seen over the last two months. I was the only one and I don’t care- I’m just jazzed and felt it was needed :slight_smile:


Because we had a fun time at the movie, and wanted to celebrate! :smiley:

(Last movie I applauded at the end of: Toy Story 2)

Because I liked the movie.

I’ve done the clapping thing, but it’s a pretty rare occurrence for me. I remember clapping at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, and it was the first time I had done that in a long, long time.

I’ve heard people spontaneously go “Yeah!” or otherwise react when a particular actor appears on screen.

One instance was in Waiting to Exhale. Wesley Snipes played the guy Angela Basset’s character met the day her divorce was final. Snipes had asked not to be in the opening credits, because he didn’t want to draw attention away from the four lead actresses. I saw the film opening night: most of the audience knew the story, but not that he was in the film. He walked on screen, and everyone started going, “Oooooooooh!”

Oh, and here’s something I would have posted earlier, but I wasn’t sure it deserved its own thread. The screening of Spiderman that we saw last Friday was preceded by a trailer for Eight Legged Freaks. During that, I experienced one of the few, if not the only, instances of an audience reacting to something with one voice.

Spoiler space for the squeamish:

First we see a giant spider on top of a cop car. Then we see the cop, inside, firing his gun up and through the roof. Then a shot of something else, I forget what. Then a shot of the cop, still looking up, while venom drips through the hole and directly into his mouth, with a kind of slopping sound. (I warned you.)

Now, I haven’t seen as many horror/gore movies as Mr. Rilch and Friend. Maybe some of the TMs have seen more than they have. But in my experience, when something sickening happens in a movie, reactions vary. Some people say “eek”. Some say “ew.” Some gag, some shriek, and some laugh. This is the only time I’ve heard an audience of 100+ people make the exact same sound. It was a kind of wave of “Gah!” with an undercurrent of agony. All of us at the same time, with the same tone and intensity.

I’m gonna have to see that movie. I’ll be sick for days, but my curiosity has been piqued.

My apologies to anyone subscribed to this thread, getting one e-mail after another. But I wanted to put these anecdotes in separate posts, to give each its own prominence.

Anyway. I once attended a very hard-core intellectual college. Many of the students were “non-traditional”: that is, they’d been to other schools or done something else entirely after high-school, or taken time off and come back. So this wasn’t a school full of under-21s. Although to be fair, it may have been mostly underage people in this audience. The point is, one “movie night”, the film was Hope and Glory. If you recall, there’s a scene where the teenage daughter sneaks her SO into the house, and there’s a brief shot of the two of them going at it. Very discreet: just their legs and the suggestion of movement. But this audience of supposedly sophisticated, mature people just had to go “Bwa-aha-ha-ha-ha!” so loud and for so long that you couldn’t hear the dialogue! The dialogue was what was funny about the scene, fercrissakes! Grow up!

It happens a lot at revival houses: when a particualrly beloved star (or even bit player, like Patsy Kelly or Willie Fung) appears onscreen, the audience applauds. I saw “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” at a revival house, and the audience actually HISSED Bette Davis’ daughter B.D. when she appeared onscreen! I also saw Billie Burke’s “the Ferncliffes aren’t coming to dinner!” aria in “Dinner at Eight” garner applause.

Maybe they want the light to come on…

During or after an emotional experience (and at many other times), people tend to react emotionally rather than rationally. The applause is emotionally appropriate, so people (including me) do it, no matter how irrational it is.