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Should Movie Theater Intermissions Make a Comeback?

Green text withing an illustrated image of violet theater curtains with a movie reel,  movie clapper and popocorn.

With Killers of the Flower Moon’s run time of 3 hours and 26 minutes (not including previews!), a new debate has sparked amongst filmmakers, studios, cinemas, and now audiences: should intermissions make a comeback?

Historically, movie theater intermissions were needed to change out film reels, giving audiences time to use the restroom and stretch their legs. The last film with a dedicated intermission was Ghandi (1982). (It should be noted The Hateful Eight had a “Roadshow” version that included an intermission. That version of the film was limited and not widely released. Asteroid City also had an intermission version that was not widely released.) As film reels phased out, intermissions, too, were eventually eliminated.

Live theater and sporting events still have intermissions & half times that allow actors, athletes, and audiences time to refresh in the restroom, stretch their legs, grab more snacks, and process the first half of the event.

Text and a cell phone device showing the interface.

Advocates of intermissions argue that these breaks are vital, biologically. Movie-goers will no longer have to decide between missing an integral part of the movie in order to use the restroom or waiting until the movie is over (hopefully, there’s no post credits scene!). However, apps like RunPee, that tell you the best time to “run and pee” during a film, would become obsolete.

Additionally, intermissions open a potential for additional revenue for cinemas with advertising and promotions. Cinemas could display upcoming movie trailers, promote their loyalty programs, or even partner with local businesses for special offers during the break, further increasing revenue and customer engagement.

A bar graph showing polling results

On the flip side, with the addition of intermissions, cinemas would have fewer showings of films. This means fewer ticket sales, as well as fewer purchases of concessions and promo items. Although intermissions give the potential for those taking a break to refill their Icee, popcorn, or candy, there’s a higher probability of overall increased concession sales with more film showings i.e. no intermissions.

Do movie-goers want to experience The Avengers: Endgame with an intermission? Action packed blockbusters like Marvel movies, the Fast & Furious franchise, and the Mission Impossible series contain action, explosions, large jumps, and even larger falls throughout the movie. Will an intermission take away the continuous fun and awe of the mind-blowing stunts and thrills? Adrenaline from watching these movies could decrease with a break that allows audiences to process the first half of the movie and cause them to come down from their previous adrenaline fueled mindset.

At present, it looks like intermissions are wishful thinking for some and an unnecessary nuisance for others! See audience thoughts by following our OC Overheard series on Instagram. We have a few thoughts from movie-goers below:

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