With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 hitting theaters today, I will no doubt find myself at the cinema this weekend to view the conclusion of the series. As I was looking the film up on IMDB, I noticed it's runtime, a healthy two hours and ten minutes. A little longer than average and not that I mind. This got me thinking, however: if movies are getting longer (which I have no objection to) then why in the hell don't theaters bring back an intermission?
What's an intermission you ask? Well, there was a time when theater patrons would attend a film and midway through the screening, they would be treated to a short break (about ten minutes in length) so that the projectionist could have time to change the reels. This would also give the audience time to stretch their legs, use the restroom and buy more concessions. In these days of grand epics, a short break is often in order. I don't want to sit through a three hour film, gritting my teeth because the 32 oz Coke I just sucked down (which is now considered a "small") is now making it's exit. I know I'm not the only one.
The first movie I remember seeing with a built in intermission, was Jeremiah Johnson (on VHS). I found the idea of an Overture, an Intermission and Outro fascinating. This makes the experience of seeing a movie a bit more like a night at the opera. The last wide release film to have an intermission was likely Gods and Generals (219 min). Which, at that length, a break is F***ing necessary! If the story demands it, I enjoy seeing a longer film. The Lord of the Rings films are a prime example of stories that cannot be told in 120 minutes. Peter Jackson took his time and the films were better for it. I'm not against epics or even slightly longer movies, but there may be a threshold where I stop enjoying the movie and begin to feel like it's an endurance test.
With declining attendance at the theater, due to the internet, VOD and the rise in home theater systems, many would-be movie goers often wonder, what can a movie theater offer them that they can't get at home. Realizing this, smaller more independent theaters have begun to provide their patrons with a more relaxing environment complete with intermissions, beer and real food. This change in business model (albeit a specialized one) provides the audience with something they can't get at home or at a major movie chain -a grand evening out.
These days it often seems like theaters have taken a nod from modern businesses and intend on rushing their patrons in and out of films as soon is as possible. This lets theater owners cram in as many screenings as possible, generating more revenue on the films themselves. This experience is a lot like going to Taco Bell. It fills you up...but would you really call it a meal?
I am greatly familiar with the old saying: "it's not show friends, it's show business". In this age of streamlined entertainment,we've traded some frills for others. However, as I attend the final H.P. film, these thoughts will be winding their way through my brain and I will no doubt wish I had in my possession Hermione's Time-Turner. Maybe then I could relieve myself without having to miss the movie I payed eight dollars to see.
But What do YOU think? Do you want intermissions back? Let us know!