Nobody really knew what the state of cinema would be post-Covid. Would audiences stay at home through fear? Would streaming kill off the theatrical experience for good? Or would cinema itself take on a whole new form; a bold and exciting incarnation characterised by hundreds of teenagers dressing up in suits and relentlessly screaming nonsense at the screen, to the tangible chagrin of everyone else in attendance?
It’s too early to say for sure but, judging by the reaction to the recently released Minions: The Rise of Gru, it’s definitely the latter. In fact, so many young people are attending Minions screenings in formalwear in order to honk full-volume gibberish at the screen that cinemas have started to turn people away.
This might require some explanation. This weekend, as the movie hit cinemas, a few select TikTok users started filming themselves watching the film in their smartest outfits. These brave pioneers – Gentleminions, they call themselves – quickly sparked a rush of imitators. One user filmed a group of well-dressed Gentleminions applauding each other like wedding attendees as they left a screening. Another asked her entire family to dress up, on the pretence that she was taking them out for the night of their lives, only to then show them all sullenly sitting through the sequel to a spinoff of the Despicable Me films.
You would think that this sort of behaviour would be like nectar to the ailing cinema industry. In terms of sheer word of mouth, the Gentleminions have done more ground level publicity for Minions 2 than its studio has ever achieved. The Gentleminion fad has transcended film. It has become a true cultural event, like the spontaneous gatherings that took place after David Bowie’s death, or Binley Mega Chippy.
But this isn’t the case. Cinemas are reporting that the Gentleminions are, in fact, a terrible menace, exhibiting such dreadful behaviour – namely throwing objects at the screen while incessantly talking like Minions – that they are having to issue thousands of pounds’ worth of refunds to appalled non-Gentleminions in attendance.
According to the BBC, a cinema in Cornwall posted a notice banning “children wearing suits” from screenings. Odeon cinemas have erected signs noting that “any groups of guests in formal attire will be refused entry” to the film. Two teenagers in white shirts were initially turned away from a showing in Mansfield, until their parents turned up with jumpers for them to wear.
Some of the criticism is valid. For instance, the argument that young children might have their first cinema trip spoiled by what basically amounts to a social media flashmob seems fairly sound. However, it is my firm belief that the Gentleminions movement should be embraced wholeheartedly.
The cause of the fad is down to one of two reasons. The first is potentially sincere. The last Despicable Me film – Despicable Me 3 – came out five years ago. The children who watched that film are now teenagers, and they’re responding to the return of the series with what seems like genuine joy. What’s more, Rise of Gru was one of those films that was booted down the schedule by Covid. Trailers for the film have existed for years now, and merchandise long ago leaked into shops. The postponement was so abrupt, in fact, that during lockdown several supermarkets were selling perishable Minions: The Rise of Gru food items. Perhaps, after such a long wait, an explosion of pent-up relief was bound to occur.
Then again, there is a chance that this is all ironic. The Gentleminions know that Minions: The Rise of Gru is a children’s film, and they’re attaching an overblown prestige to it in the same way that students of 25 years ago declared their love for the Teletubbies. However, this is also potentially incredibly lucrative. Look at The Room; a giant flop of a film that eventually turned a profit thanks to year-round screenings where audiences screamed and hooted and threw plastic cutlery at the screen.
This could well be the future of Minions: The Rise of Gru. If cinemas stop wildly overreacting to the Gentleminions, and start hosting dedicated Gentleminion screenings where dressing up and jabbering incoherently is actively encouraged, the film will still be in cinemas at Christmas. It could be in cinemas for years. It could become the biggest film of all time. This is what we all deserve.
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