Sure, if you’re watching a stage play, fighting to stay awake during a classical concert, or bursting to pee during a four-hour opera, a well placed intermission can be a welcome reprieve. It lets the audience recoup after all that mad singing, and ensures that your bladder won’t burst in the middle of a particularly piercing Aria. Furthermore, such art forms are designed to work around the intermission with a ‘first act’ and ‘second act’ (sometimes more). The intermission is tradition.
Films, on the other hand, don’t need to be split in two like a French monarch. Cinema goers are watching the latest Taken or Ice Age sequel, not Götterdämmerung.
Hitchcock’s rule that “No film should outlast the endurance of the human bladder” has generally been followed by everyone in Hollywood outside of Peter Jackson (who has earned the exception) and whoever made the dreck that was Tree of Life… but maybe that just felt like it lasted an eternity. Foreign directors often play by different rules but even then, 2 hours into the 4+ hourlong Das Boot you’d rather pee your pants than pull away from what’s happening in that submarine. If you absolutely do have to pee, darting out for two minutes isn’t likely to disrupt your understanding of the plot. Frodo and Sam still won’t have thrown that ring in. That said, go for a leak at your own risk, and think twice before ordering that extra-large coke from the concession stand.
Which brings us to the real reason for intermission, the reason it’s implemented in whichever countries cinema owners think it’s possible to pull off.
Many cinema owners don’t care about the actual quality of the cinematic experience they provide (go to nearly any of London’s incredibly shitty cinemas for evidence of this), only about finding new ways to squeeze out an extra pound or two from increasingly compliant Europeans.
A recent trip to Antwerp left me boiling when, after paying an exorbitant amount for an afternoon showing at a popular cinema near the central train station, I was informed that I had to pay to use the bathroom. Now, I’m against having to pay to use the bathroom in every instance, it’s a human rights violation, but having to pay to pee AFTER shelling out 30 euros for a pair of movie tickets? Buy popcorn and at least you can piss in the bucket after.
The bathroom attendant responded to my outrage with an “I know.” Not the kind of “I know” that says, ‘I know that what I’m doing is an outrageous grab for more money from already overtaxed, overcharged individuals, but I can so why not?’ but more like an apologetic ‘I know, it’s terrible and embarrassing, but my masters beat me if I let someone take a piddle without dropping a coin in first.’
Never would I have imagined advocating peeing in public but to any who should accidentally find themselves at UGC Antwerpen at Van Ertbornstraat 17, or any other cinema that similarly charges to use the toilet after paying for movie tickets, I would say, go and do your business in a corner of one of the screening rooms. We’ll see how UGC’s tyrannical Belgian overlords like that!
Intermission is the same kind of shameless money grab. Yet another attempt by cinema owners to milk the weary populace out of every last drop, perhaps because a lack of breast feeding in their youth left them devoid of the nutrition needed to develop a proper sense of morality.
But an even greater crime is the harm it does to the cinematic experience. Why bother going to the cinema at all if an intermission is going to protrude like an STD riddled dick right into the middle of an action sequence? Sorry Liam Neeson, the screen just jizzed all over your beating the shit out of that Albanian guy.
There’s nothing climactic about that.