by Ben Sachs
In those cinemas designed before the rise of stadium seating, looking up is usually a bane. The first few rows are almost directly beneath the screen; if you sit in that area, you can never see the entire frame at once. You watch the movie as if it were a tennis game in the sky, your head darting back and forth and eyeballs straining upward. Whenever I've watched a movie in that spot, it's because I arrived to a popular screening after all the better seats had filled. But if the crowd's a good one, their enthusiasm can compensate for the obstructed view. You can intuit what you aren't seeing from the responses coming from behind you: laughter, gasps, the palpable tenseness of collective fascination.
This sensation might be the opposite of cosmic wonder (few things make you feel more earthbound than being packed at the front of a crowd), but it's wonder all the same. Call it the voodoo of a live audience.