Intermissions During Long Films: Ah, The Good Old Days

When I was a wee tad of a movie goer, I can remember long epic films used to have an intermission in the middle of the film…suddenly the screen would show up saying “Intermission” and people could get up, go to the restrooms, get some more popcorn, another drink or just talk to their friends about the film. Quite civilized.

Granted, there are not a whole lot of films that go over 3 hours, but I cannot remember the last time there was an intermission in a film since I was a kid. You would think the movie theaters would be thrilled with an entire audience getting up and going out to buy more overly expensive drinks and food half way through the film.

Anyone else remember those movie intermissions?

Fondly. I think the last film I saw with an intermission was Reds, which has to be more than 25 years ago.

The last film I saw in a theater with an intermission was “Gettysburg” in 1993. And that was originally supposed to be a TV miniseries, I think.

Did we lose the intermission before or after we lost the cartoon, newsreel, short subject, etc. that played before the main feature?
Intermissions are, of course, alive and well in live theater, but that’s partly to give the performers a break and, sometimes, allow time for costume changes, set changes, etc.

ETA: I wonder if, in the olden days, people thought of going out to see a movie as more similar to going out to see a play; and if so, was the loss of the movie intermission an effect of, or a contributor to, the change in attitude of modern audiences.

I remember an intermission when my parents took us to see A Passage To India when I was a kid. I don’t think I’ve seen one since.

We still have them here.

I never understood why American theaters stopped using them. Doesn’t something like 75% of their business come from soft drinks and popcorn? Why not give moviegoers another 10 minutes to restock?

In Greece, we still have intermissions in open-air movie theaters during the summer. I actually saw the latest Indiana Jones with an intermission and it allowed me to confirm that my opinion that the movie sucked was quasi-universally shared.

Other than that, the last time there was an intermission for a movie in a “normal” movie theater was when Revenge of the Sith was released. And in that case, it was only a single movie theater, and only for the 20.00 showing. Never understood why.

I don’t remember one in a movie theater, but when we saw “The Sound of Music” at the Hollywood Bowl, there was an intermission. Which then prompted one member of the party to say, “Intermission?!?! When did this movie have an intermission?”

I liked it, though.

Don’t ask 'em to bring back Intermissions. Some marketing suck will interpret that to mean we want commercials in the middle of movies.

FWIW, there’s an intermission deliberately placed into Cremaster 3 (from 2002)…which is good, because it’s a looooong film.

Way too late, that was the assumption of the marketing people then:


When I went to see Fellowship of the Ring in the teeny-tiny theatre over the border, they had an intermission right before the Mines. That was the only movie theatre in which I saw Fellowship that had an intermission. Actually, it’s the only intermission I’ve ever seen, and as I recall the same theatre didn’t have intermissions for either of the other two LotR films.

ETA: For some reason I know the “Let’s all go to the lobby” intermission jingle, but I don’t know why I know it.

There was one during Titanic at a drive-in I went to, just because the movie was so long and the owner had to change reels.

We have them and man is it lousy. And since they’re in between reels they usually happen in the middle of a friggin scene.

So whatever you do - don’t ask for them back :wink:

Ditto. The theatre that I saw it at, with the beautiful architectural details on the ceiling, has also long since been torn down.

Good golly, there’s a Wikipedia article for everything!

I know it from The Simpsons (specifically, the episode “Burns’s Heir,” in which Mr. Burns appears with the dancing concession snacks).

It probably has something to do with the change in how projectionists are utilized today. A multiplex will have at least six theaters all showing movies which start at staggered times–and only one projectionists. (There are some towns where separate theaters will have the same projectionist working for each theater at the same time–s/he has to drive back and forth.) A long time ago, theaters had only one screen and one projectionist, so it was simpler to have intermissions.

And most people will get up to buy snacks in the middle of a movie whether there’s an intermission or not.

Last time I was at movie which had an intermission was when I saw **Gandhi **in 1983.

That reminds me, I would’ve really welcomed an intermission when I saw LoTR: The Two Towers. Taking everything into account (i.e., reserving a seat, commercials, previews, and the film itself), I think ended up sitting for over 4.5 hours. When it was all over, I could barely stand up and felt like a candidate for a pulmonary embolism.

Another thing that went the way of intermissions is the Movie Program. I still have a few of the large glossy booklets, including* 2001*, Ice Station Zebra, and Close Encounters.

I go to drive-ins in the summer, and they all have intermissions between films.

Back in those days, there were usually no intermissions. People got up and got their drinks, etc. during the newsreel or a short subject. Or even during the movie itself. Also, I believe theaters made a much higher percentage of their income from ticket sales, espcially back when the studios owned the theaters.

Intermissions started in the 50s as a way to imitate theaters and to differentiate from TV.

No. People thought about going to a movie like they thought of going to a Nickeloedon or vaudeville: you’d come in when convenient and watch the feature or combination of short subjects. Shows were usually continuous and it wasn’t unusual to come in during the middle of the feature.* You’d then stay until you reached that point in the film.

*Alfred Hitchcock didn’t allow anyone into the theater after the first half hour of Psycho – an unusual move for the time – because he didn’t want people to arrive late and wonder why Janet Leigh wasn’t in the film.