Critic thinks movie intermissions should be revived

posted by CSWalczak on April 19, 2010 at 10:40 am

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle thinks that intermissions should be a part of certain films once again. The last film that he can recall that had one was “Gandhi” in 1982.

One of my favorite Chronicle stories involved waiting in the lobby of the theater during an advance screening of the third “Lord of the Rings” movie, and interviewing the Tolkien fans running — no sprinting — from the theater to the bathroom in the last half of the marathon film. Every one of them wished it had an intermission. I also found a professional movie critic with one kidney, Chris Gore, who has to urinate more than most and has become an outspoken advocate of the return of the intermission.

With a greater number of popular movies approaching and sometimes exceeding three hours in length (even the lightweight “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” lasted 2 ½ hours) bringing the intermission back seems logical. Contrary to popular belief, the theater owners I’ve spoken to say they would like to have the option — they could sell more concessions, where they make the real money — but their contracts with the studios prohibit intermissions.

Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Comments (20)

scottfavareille on April 19, 2010 at 1:54 pm

When Titanic came out in 1997, one local theater chain kept having problems with the film print burning up at one of its theaters during the last 20 minutes of the film because the film projector had too much heat build-up. I decided to go to one other theater about 15 miles away to see Titanic. That theater (an independent) had a great solution. They showed Titanic with a 20 minute intermission!

I do think intermissions are necessary for films that run over 2 ½ hours & not just to sell more concession items or going to the bathroom. I seldom go to theaters now because I cannot sit for long periods of time (back & hip issues)/ The intermissions work great in those instances.

jimpiscitelli on April 19, 2010 at 2:31 pm

I agree they should bring back intermissions for movies running for more than 2 ½ hours. I do remember when I saw movies at the Lake Theatre in Oak Park, IL they had intermissions for “Ragtime”, “Sophie’s Choice”, “Amadeus” and “Out Of Africa”. In recent years the only movie that had an intermission was “Gods and Generals” because it ran over three hours.

moviebuff82 on April 19, 2010 at 3:26 pm

The last time I saw a movie with an intermission was during a second-run screening of “James and the Giant Peach” at what would become the Paramus Picture Show in Paramus, NJ during its run in 1996 with a group of middle-school kids from Slocum Skewes School and a reading teacher who read the book to me and my classmates before the movie came out. There was no intermission made for the movie, but what the projectionist did was stop the movie in the middle to allow the kids to go to the bathroom and or/ buy concession food before the movie resumed. This for a short movie is weird!!!

moviebuff82 on April 19, 2010 at 3:28 pm

jimpiscitelli, I think you’re right. “Gods and Generals” was the last major Hollywood release (wide) that had an intermission, and I took notice of that while waiting in line to buy tickets for “Daredevil” at the Loews (now AMC) Stroud Mall 7 in Stroudsburg, PA, a run-down theater. I think “Che” was the last indie movie to have an intermission since it ran four hours.

markp on April 19, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Man as someone who’s been in the business over 34 years, and as a kid went with my father when he was a projectionist, I would LOVE to see intermissions come back. But in todays world of AMC and Regal pencil pushers (to name a few) it will never happen. As the owner of the 10-plex where I work says, crowd control in these multiplexes would prohibit an intermission from ever happening. As I have said many, many times, that’s what’s wrong with the business today.

JodarMovieFan on April 19, 2010 at 5:47 pm

The problem with intermissions is that you lose that build up to a movie’s climax. LOTR: Return of the King is a prime example. It clocked in over 3 hours, but every minute is part of that journey. I suppose if you HAD to have an intermission, it would be right before Frodo and Gamji enter Mordor.

On the other hand, it would be great for movie theater owners to get in that last extra $ on concession stand fare and for patrons to properly relieve themselves. As long as there isn’t a contractual obligation to NOT having an intermission, I would do it. As a theater owner, I would have most movies with an intermission and RUN an add for the popcorn, soft drink and yogurt bar :P right as the curtain draws to a close..

CSWalczak on April 19, 2010 at 6:46 pm

There would not be the loss of a climatic build to a movie’s climax if the intermission was built into the film’s construction from the outset, as it was during the days of the great roadshow presentations. Directors of films such as “2001,” “The Ten Commandments,” “Ben-Hur,” “Cleopatra,” etc., understood that epic, extended-length films needed an Act I – Act II structure; in fact, in the grand old roadshow day,s one could often anticipate that the intermission was nigh by a couple of indicators, such as the swelling of the musical score, a pullback camera shot, or even sometimes something obvious, such as the chorus on the soundtrack of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, World” singing, “Now step into the lobby/for whatever/is your hobby…”. If directors such as Cameron, and Jackson and others want their films described as “epic"they should learn a lesson from the golden age of the epic film. An intermission should not simply mean just stopping the film for fifteen or twenty minutes.

JohnRice on April 19, 2010 at 7:41 pm

As we become older and the kidneys become weaker intermissions in 3 hour plus movies become a necessity! Even when I was a young pup, I liked them as a chance to get up and stretch my legs. What I didn’t like back in those days was intermissions in films that didn’t have them built in. For example I’m thinking of an intermission that wasn’t supposed to be there in Disney’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” at the UA Theatre in RIchmond CA, it’s purpose obviously just to sell some additional concessions. Our local drive in had policy of placing an intermission in the middle of any film that had a running time over 2 hours. They didn’t look for a good place to put the intermission either. If the film was on 6 reels, it would come at the end of reel 3, if on 7 reels at the end of reel 4. It didn’t matter if the reel ended in the middle of a conversation, they just spliced on an “Intermission” tag. You should have heard the honking horns, at least from the people who were actually watching the movie!

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 19, 2010 at 10:04 pm

The last movie I remember seeing with a built-in intermission was “Gettysburg”.

John Fink
John Fink on April 20, 2010 at 12:22 am

The additional snack sales and bladder drainage are all valid points. I don’t know why Hollywood and the exhibitors don’t do an intermission. Bollywood films often feature a naturally designated intermission that Regal, AMC, Clearview and National Amusements chop off (often you’ll get an awkward jump cut and even some times a summary of what just happened – Reliance Media owned Big Cinemas does do an intermission out of tradition).

Theater often build in enough time to clean and turn around the theater, so what’s another 10-20 minutes, they probably won’t loose a show, and ifs a major flick then why not: more popcorn sales. For the record when I saw the Che roadshow I bought my popcorn to enjoy with the second half of the feature since I had just come from dinner. I bet if filmmakers like Peter Jackson insisted on an intermission – it would happen.

terrywade on April 20, 2010 at 12:34 am

The big movie theatre people won’t do intermissions as they will have to hire more manager type projection people, that they won’t do. The multiplex giants are not going to take someone off the consession stand and have them stop and turn off the projector but keep the lamp fans on and then re start the print platter in 15mn.

JohnRice on April 20, 2010 at 1:38 am

Come to think of it maybe it’s better the multiplexes don’t have intermissions. They probably would put on that damn 20 minute parade of commercials masquerading as entertainment (the pre-show video) again!

As far as what Terry Wade said above, couldn’t there just be an “Intermission” tag followed by 10 or 15 minutes of black film) with automation system programmed to turn on and off the house lights? That wouldn’t involve any more of that expensive projection room labor (popcorn seller rate plus 25 cents an hour?). That probably isn’t going to happen as long as the film distributors have the theatre operators by the you-know-what! Get ‘em in and move 'em out! Rawhide!

movietheatres on April 20, 2010 at 3:33 am

I own a small chain. We’d love intermissions. The studios don’t do them for one reason: showings. Intermissions would have some theaters having less showings, less showings would result in less ticket sales. I would flip for an intermission, we’ve run some classics with them and they give the audience a great breather and the concession stand a chance to sell some more faire. But..its show Bu$ine$$ after all!

chitchatjf on April 20, 2010 at 7:58 am

I would like to see double features. :)

KJB2012 on April 20, 2010 at 5:59 pm

I believe that the old roadshow concept needs to make a come back if cinemas are to survive. The roadshow or special dates almost from the begining of film. It delivered class. The curtain, the overture, the imtermisson and exit music delivered something special that one could not get at regular run of the mill cinema.
I believe it was Mike Todd who said “Around the World” wasn’t just a movie but a show.
But movies do need to be constructed to use the intermission as part of the story telling.
If cinemas are going to survive, they not need the big screen, 3D and all that but they need class. Most of the AMC’s or Regals are about as classy as Wal-Mart. In this age when home entertainment is not just for the rich, the cinema will have to keep offering something special to get us pop for $15 to $20 tickets.
What today’s Megaplex needs is a separate theatre like Regal’s Premiere at L.A. Live.
Play your class film with reserved seats and all in the class house.

kencmcintyre on April 21, 2010 at 2:09 pm

I missed a couple of scenes in “2012” running to the restroom and back. I think that movie was two hours plus, although you could have cut out all the exposition and just left in the cities getting destroyed and everyone would have been happy.

TLSLOEWS on April 21, 2010 at 10:37 pm

If the movie is long enough why not,then no one misses anything.

Edward Havens
Edward Havens on April 24, 2010 at 12:17 pm

The recent Bollywood movies 3 Idiots and My Name Is Khan (the latter released by Fox Searchlight) had intermissions built-in. Those used to Bollywood movies enjoyed the quick break, while those unaccustomed to Bollywood movies just thought the film was over, and I had to make sure I had someone posted near the main exits when the film was getting out, to let those patrons know there was still another hour and a half of the movie to go.

CaptVonKrapp on April 26, 2010 at 2:55 am

The last movie with an intermission that I remember was the director’s cut of “Das Boot,” sometime back in the 90’s. It was the only time I ever saw a line outside the men’s room in all my years of movie-going!

Michael R. Rambo Jr.
Michael R. Rambo Jr. on April 26, 2010 at 12:18 pm

The last movie I remember with an intermission was “Gods And Generals”, which came out in 2004.

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