In 2005, Dan Gardner watched Peter Jackson’s King Kong (runtime: 201 min) in theaters and had a major problem: he had to pee, but didn’t want to they never considered an intermission because not a single person took a bathroom break in their first three test screenings. Avatar: The Way of Water’s 200-minute runtime gave plenty of time to show off the visual effects, but the sheer length of them gave me a headache. These are all movies with oversized runtimes, but they’re also in the top 5 highest-grossing movies ever.

So clearly a good movie is usually a long movie, but fans are hesitant to commit to such a long experience, especially if the subject is bleak. In 2023, there are three long movies from iconic directors: Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, and Ridley Scott’s Napoleon, which clocks in at only 2 hours 38 minutes. Napoleon even has a four-hour-long cut coming to streaming. Could this be the time to bring the intermission back?

Not without the director’s express approval. Last month, when Killers of the Flower Moon premiered in theaters, a handful of cinemas both in the U.S. and Europe were showing the movie with a break near the middle of its 3.5 hour runtime. When Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorcese’s longtime editor, heard wind of this, she immediately condemned it, telling The Standard, “That’s a violation so I have to find out about it.”

So why not bake an intermission into a runtime? It would be a plus to theaters, encouraging audiences to top up on concessions when they would normally tough it out; it’s a plus to studios, attracting audiences who would be turned off by the commitment; and it’s obviously a plus for audiences, giving people a chance to stretch their legs. There’s even an opportunity during the intermission: play a beautiful overture like the intermissions of old, or seize the opportunity for some advertising.

It’s a technique that’s already in use in special circumstances. If you were to catch a special screening of a professionally shot Broadway show or an opera, those would include intermissions. Bollywood movies never wavered from including intermissions in movies, which is a blessing considering multiple hugely successful films cross the 200-minute threshold.

Intermissions aren’t that big of a deal for structure: most movies are built around a midpoint anyway, and this would just add a break and anticipation for the second half. As long as it’s done consensually, it’s hard to see a downside.

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