Movie Theaters Are Desperate For Your Popcorn Purchases

With longer movie runtimes, theaters are hoping to bring back an old practice: intermission.

There's no question that movie theaters are struggling to stay afloat when more and more people opt to stay at home to watch via streaming services. Some theater chains are experimenting with full meal service to get butts in seats, or, failing that, partnering with third-party delivery services to bring movie popcorn and snacks straight to your doorstep. Cinemas have to make up for that lagging revenue somehow, and food, so far, has been their best bet to do it. But now, movie theaters are trying to adapt concession sales to a different beast: long movies.

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Over the past few years, movie runtimes seem to be creeping upward, with many recent hits over three hours—so fewer movies can be screened per day. Fewer movies means fewer snacks are sold, which is a pain point for cinemas that are already struggling. So some movie theater operators are hoping to bring back one old-timey practice that could inject some cash: the movie intermission. But as The Hollywood Reporter notes, production companies aren't such a big fan of the idea.

Some movie theaters want to bring back intermission

Not only do we theatergoers need to hit up the restroom during a three-hour long film (God, I get so antsy), but an intermission would also be an ideal time to replenish our popcorn, refill our sodas, and maybe tack on that box of Reese's Pieces we were eyeing earlier.

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That extra revenue goes a long way for independent theaters, especially those running on fumes. But as The Hollywood Reporter notes, intermission is not always a theater's decision to make.

When the Martin Scorsese film Killers of the Flower Moon was released earlier this year, The Lyric theater in Fort Collins, Colorado, received calls inquiring whether there would be an intermission during the film's screening. (The movie is 3 hours 26 minutes long.) The theater wanted to make its patrons happy, so it built in an eight-minute break during the runtime. But once Paramount caught wind of it due to a viral social media post, The Lyric received a stern phone call saying that fines could be imposed due to the fact that the theater had violated its booking contract.

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Another theater, the Art Theatre in Long Beach, California, wanted to do the same thing—but Paramount responded the same way, telling the theater that the practice was forbidden. You can imagine that for a theater with only one screen, like the Art Theatre, that's going to cause some strain. The second evening showing was slated to start at 9 p.m., which meant that patrons would be let out well after midnight, which equals more hours staffed, and with no intermission to earn back some revenue in concession sales.

Why movie production companies don’t want intermissions

The pushback against intermissions sometimes comes down to the directors of the films themselves, who argue that a snack refill break would ruin their vision of the film, says Men's Health.

Personally, I think sitting in a dark movie theater with an excruciating need to pee would ruin the movie more than hitting pause on the projector. I have some bad memories of movies that were just so long I physically couldn't stand being there. And besides, when you think fondly of a movie you loved watching, would you even remember that it was segmented by a quick break?

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If film companies and directors aren't willing to be flexible, and are disappointed when more people end up staying at home and streaming the movie from the couch, aren't directors' visions being compromised anyway? We all know an action movie isn't anywhere near as fun at home on the small screen with your dog barking in the background. Intermissions at theaters are starting to sound pretty good, especially if they allow enough time for a popcorn refill.

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