Several weeks ago I tapped out a piece called “Whither La La Land‘s Encounter With Joe Popcorn?“. The gist was that (a) Tom Hanks was spot-on when he said “if the audience doesn’t go and embrace something as wonderful as this then we are all doomed,” but that (b) I was concerned about Bobby Peru‘s prediction that Damien Chazelle’s 21st Century musical (Summit, 12.9) will only do arthouse-level business.

La La Land director-writer Damien Chazelle (r.), Access Hollywood‘s Scott Mantz (l.) outside SCAD Trustees theatre prior to last night’s La La Land screening.

Well, I saw La La land again last night at the Savannah Film Festival, and while the audience was a mixture of elite film lovers (which all film festivals attract) and SCAD students, it went over like gangbusters. Cheering, whoo-whooing, a standing ovation for Chazelle. Three SCAD kids (two girls and a guy) were sitting next to me, and they were all having kittens. Delighted, emotionally affected, planning to buy the soundtrack and see it again with their parents, etc. Everyone in the house was blissed, floating.

Bobby Peru’s response would presumably be “naaah, people who go to film festivals are foo-foos…real popcorn types aren’t going to embrace this because musicals are regarded as arcane exercises in nostalgia, especially those that don’t feature major music stars.”

I don’t agree with that assessment. I think La La Land really has that special schwing, and I think Average Joes are going to tap into this, especially when it starts to generate more and more Best Picture heat once the screenings pick up next month and especially after it opens on December 9th.

Hanks: “A movie like La La Land would [normally] be anathema to the studios. This is not a movie that falls into some sort of trend. Pre-awareness is a big thing they want, which is why a lot of remakes are going on. La La Land is not a sequel, nobody knows who the characters are, it’s a musical and no one knows the songs.

“We all understand the business aspects of it. It’s cruel and it’s backbreaking and take-no-prisoners. But there’s always that chance where the audience sees something that is brand new, that they never expected, and embraces it and celebrates it. [Because] we all go to the cinema for the same thing, to be transported to someplace we have never been before.”

My 9.2.16 Telluride review, titled “Best Screen Musical Since Moulin Rouge, and Before That…Cabaret?” The gist of the piece was that I gave it a 9.  Except it played even better last night, so that means it’s a 9.5.

La La Land director-writer Damien Chazelle during post-screening chat with THR‘s Scott Feinberg following last night’s screening.