It’s official. The run time of Avengers: Endgame – which is out in theaters April 26 – is a whopping 182 minutes. It’s certainly not the longest movie to ever come out in theaters, but it helps facilitate an oft-discussed question among moviegoers: should longer movies have an intermission?
This is a conversation that has been going on for years. It used to be more common to have an intermission in a longer movie; films like Gone with the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, Ben-Hur, and 2001: A Space Odyssey all have intermissions, and movie musicals like My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music had them as well, as they were based on stage performances. But the practice seemed to fall out of favor after Gandhi was released in 1982. It was the last mainstream movie to have an intermission for over 30 years. (Allegedly Titanic had an intermission if you saw it in 3D IMAX; I saw the standard release and I do not remember an intermission, but I was also 15.) Perhaps not until Grindhouse was released in 2007 did intermissions return, and even then only sparingly (in Quentin Tarantino movies – like The Hateful Eight).
Movies are getting longer on average. The longest movie I ever saw in theaters was Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which clocked in at 200 minutes. But since it was released over 15 years ago, I honestly can’t remember if I was able to make it through the entire film without needing a bathroom break. My bladder was made of stronger stuff when I was younger – now I can barely make it through even average-length movies without needing to leave. When I saw Captain America: Civil War, I waited as long as I could before making a mad dash for the restrooms. Luckily I chose a good spot, as I didn’t miss much, but it’s always a fear of mine that I’ll miss something important because I needed to pee.
Movie theaters would love to have a break during longer movies; they make the bulk of their profits from concession sales, which would increase if moviegoers had time to kill in the middle of a film. No one wants to miss ten minutes of a movie they paid $15 to see just to run and get more popcorn or top off their soda. However, due to their contracts with the studios, they are not allowed to add in their own intermission – only if it’s included in the movie itself. And studios aren’t likely to bend on this issue anytime soon; their money comes from ticket sales, and if you need to add an extra 20 minutes into the movie, there will be fewer showings of that movie in each theater, which is a substantial amount of profit to lose.
Therefore, I would like to propose the following compromise: have the trailers and commercials that come at the beginning of the film in the middle instead. I’m all for adding an intermission into long films so that I can go to the restroom without worrying about missing any of the movie, but when you factor in the 20-30 minutes of ads before the movie, I don’t want to block out 4 hours of my day to spend in the theater. So it just makes sense to take those trailers and ads for Coke and stick them in the middle of the movie. Theater owners would be happy because people would have time to hit the concession stand, and studio owners would be happy because it doesn’t take any time away from other showings that day.
Directors, on the other hand, may not approve of this compromise; intermissions can break up the flow of a film and take you out of the action. But if you know your movie is going to be long, it should be relatively easy to structure the film into two halves and find a natural spot for a break. After all, audience members dashing out to the restroom in the middle of a film and possibly missing crucial scenes will also ruin the flow.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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