‘You don’t need everyone to love you, just a few good people.’
I first reviewed The Greatest Showman back at the start of January. In my review I outline that the film had potential that it didn’t fully tap into, that the songs were okay to pretty good but the film itself was complicated. My review was fairly positive compared to most; many critics hated it and the film looked likely to fare poorly at the box office. And yet it totally defied expectation and it’s still in some UK cinemas four months on from its initial release. With a budget of $84 million it’s gone on to make $424,678,959 Worldwide. In fact it’s a film that seemed to increase in ticket sales after release, as opposed to the typical trend of decreasing.
I should point out that I didn’t go to the sing-along as some sort of research project. I went as I’ve listened to the soundtrack a lot since seeing it and it’s become an important film to me & a close friend (hello Belvet if you’re reading this). But sitting in the downstairs cinema screen of the wonderful Prince Charles Cinema this afternoon before the film I found myself instantly understanding why the film was doing so well.
At its core, cinema is about the collective experience. For a couple of hours a room full of strangers are united on a journey (be that literal, metaphorical, spiritual et al). Together they will share emotions: they’ll laugh and they’ll cry, then go on their respective ways. The Greatest Showman, intentionally or unintentionally depending on your view of your film, manages to tap into that. Though the film itself has a fundamentally uncomfortable story and can be perceived as exploitative in certain aspects, it seems to connect people.
In that room was a whole mix of ages and groups. Parents with kids. Dads with kids. Mums with kids. Groups of women. Groups of men. Couples. We were all there for one thing and we loved every minute of it. We sang, we joked, we quoted and we called out certain things at certain times. And it was so much fun.
Although PCC is renowned for it special participation screenings there have been very few, if any films, that have evoked this level of participation on this large a scale since 1975’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The songs in TGS are accessible (though there are some notes within them which aren’t!) and are full of positive messages.
Our screening had a truly fabulous compere who set us vocal warm up exercises, taught us choreography and had a pageant for those who had arrived in costume. There was one member of the audience who really stood out to me; a woman in her 20s, probably quite close to my age. She came on her own. She came in costume. She stood up during the choreographed sequences, ran to the front and danced along. It takes both a lack of self conscious and sheer adoration of something to do that. That’s the kind of film that is. Although it may not be your kind of film you surely have to admire something that instills such passion in someone. That’s what fandom is supposed to be. We may not understand why someone feels so deeply about that particular thing, but surely we should respect that they do.
I still stick with my initial rating of 3.5 stars for the film. But for today’s experience, well, there’s only one rating I can give it…
The Greatest Showman is available on DVD and VOD from May 14th. Click here to find the dates for PCC’s next sing-along screening.