Blockbuster films are only getting longer, and audiences are skipping the theater to stream at home instead. In response, many theatres have brought back the age-old tradition of movie intermissions.
While this move is proving to be a win so far, studios are not happy with the breaks. Still, these intermissions could combat many of the issues facing theatres and bring back movie-going as the spectacle it once was.
Why Bring Back Movie Intermissions?
It’s no secret that movie theaters have struggled for some time. In fact, theaters still haven’t been able to bring back audience numbers to what they used to be pre-covid.
Having to fight for ticket sales in the age of streaming, the bloated runtime of films isn’t helping. Most of the big blockbusters of the past few years have all been over three hours long:
- Oppenheimer, 180 minutes
- The Batman, 175 minutes
- Avatar: The Way of Water, 195 minutes
When watching new films, most audiences prefer to wait until the movie is streaming. In 2022, 55% of audiences opted to stay home to watch movies vs 37% who’d rather watch in theaters.
With Netflix having changed the business of movies, the audiences preferring to stream movies comes as no surprise.
But adding movie intermissions might be able to close the gap. After all, when streaming a longer movie, you could just press pause to get snacks or use the restroom without missing a thing.
Giving audiences the ability to take a break would give them more control over their movie experience…
AND IT’S ALREADY WORKING.
How Could Intermissions Save Theaters?
Giving movies an intermission would not just give audiences more comfort while watching…
But it could boost revenue for both the studios and the theaters.
As unlikely as it seems, intermissions are increasing ticket sales and some theaters are already reaping the benefits.
In the UK, Tim Richards, Chief Executive of Vue theater chain, ran a test. The experiment reintroduced 15-minute movie intermissions. He implemented the break in Martin Scorsese’s latest Killers of the Flower Moon…
A film with a three-and-a-half-hour runtime.
The results were astounding, he states…
“RIGHT OFF THE BAT, 30 PERCENT OF OUR CUSTOMERS CHOSE TO WATCH THE MOVIE WITH AN INTERVAL EVEN IF IT MEANT STAYING LONGER. AND 85 PERCENT SAID THEY WOULD ABSOLUTELY COME BACK AND WATCH A MOVIE WITH AN INTERVAL.”
Movie-goers are clearly taking advantage of the breaks. Beyond just the boost in ticket sales, the theaters would enjoy an uptick in their concession sales during the intermission.
Kerstin Kansteiner, head of the single-screen, nonprofit theater, the Art Theatre, says
“OUR THINKING WAS, WE CAN REALLY MAKE THIS AN EVENT… AND IT COULD ALSO MAKE FOR EXTRA CONCESSION SALES, WHICH IS LITERALLY HOW WE PAY OUR BILLS THESE DAYS.”
Concession sales make up 80% of a movie theater’s revenue. So giving audiences the chance to buy more of that classic, overpriced popcorn helps keep the projectors on.
Movie intermissions are evidently a financial win-win for every party involved.
But even with better box office numbers…
Studios, and particularly directors are not too keen on letting audiences take a break from the lengthy spectacles.
Artistic Vision Vs. Audience Comfort
Studios are arguing that movie intermissions take viewers out of the world of the film.
During the screening of Avatar: The Way of the Water, theaters were denied their request for an intermission.
Per the request of director James Cameron.
“IMAGINE BEING IMMERSED IN THE WORLD OF AVATAR AND HAVING A SUDDEN BREAK. IT WOULD BE HARD TO GET BACK INTO THE MOVIE.”
Tim Richards argues that movies are not different from other lengthy events, such as sports or live theater:
“When you go see an amazing show at the theatre, the intermission doesn’t distract from it. In fact, it makes it that much more enjoyable because you get a little bit of a break and you can’t wait to get back in.”
Regardless, movies are getting longer whether we like it or not. Even in the face of all of the benefits that movie intermissions could provide, studios are not in the mood to be challenged.
The question now is, can studios and directors swallow their pride for better ticket sales and turnout…
Or are audiences going to have to stay waiting…
Until the credits roll for a change?
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