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Let's all go to the lobby
Once Upon a Time, when bladders were smaller, attention spans were shorter, and people actually went to the theatre to see films instead of illegally streaming them off the Internet, there was a thing called an intermission. This was a time when people got out of their seats and walked around in the lobby talking with their fellow patrons of the arts and using the facilities. This broke up the pacing of a film and changed a monolith into something considered in smaller parts. During the intermissions themselves, it was common to show cartoons with catchy jingles enticing the audience to head to the lobby and buy themselves some refreshments.
These days, intermissions are far less common, but that hasn't stopped them from popping up in all sorts of media, including a few where they don't even seem to make sense, such as webcomics. Films are still the most common source outside of live theatre though, especially Epic Movies. Bonus points if the intermission is included in the home video version. Some cinemas (especially smaller ones) will also insert intermissions into the films being shown even when there was no original split.
In Theatre, intermissions are still standard practice. They provide a break to let the stage crew change the set around. Also, theatrical productions tend to be relatively long, and also tend to frown heavily on people leaving and returning during the performance, so intermissions are much more of a biological necessity. There also an economic one as theatres can make some sales at the bar and/or snack food stands, only they have to be consumed outside of the auditorium. In other media, standards tend to be more lax. As almost all theatre productions involve intermissions, don't list one of them here unless it's particularly noteworthy.
Lengthy concert performances by musicians or stand up comedians may also include an intermission, to give the performers a break and to allow for possible changes in the lineup. During the intermission, backup performers may provide light ambient music to entertain people who don't choose to leave their seats, but featured pieces will be reserved for when the show resumes.
In American baseball, an intermission takes place in the middle of the seventh inning, and is referred to as the "seventh inning stretch".
If you're looking for the 2003 film, see here.
Films with proper intermissions:
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
- Gone with the Wind
- The Seven Samurai
- Lawrence of Arabia
- The Godfather Part II has an intermission, though Part I lacks one.
- The Ten Commandments
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show
- My Fair Lady
- House of Wax
- Kenneth Branagh's film of Hamlet came with an intermission. When he promoted it on The Late Show With David Letterman, the clip he brought was from the intermission.
- Gettysburg came with an intermission, at least when it was shown in a theater. But then since it was planned as a four hour, two day TV Miniseries before they decided to show it in theaters...
- When the full version of Once Upon a Time in America (which runs 3 hrs 49 min) was shown on The ABC (ABC is Australia's public broadcaster and doesn't have commercial breaks), they included an intermission.
- Oddly said intermission (at about 2 hours and 40 minutes in) is also on the DVD, but cut down to a couple seconds.
- When Schindler's List was broadcast on television for the first time (at least in the USA). NBC's airing of the movie was commercial-free and without breaks, save for a two-minute interval in the middle with a timer counting down to when the movie would resume.
- Doctor Zhivago
- The Great Race (2 minutes long, with music)
- The film version of Oliver! kept the intermission from the stage play.
- The original roadshow version of Fantasia. Later versions re-edited the footage of the orchestra leaving for intermission and then returning for the opening and closing of the film. The DVD version restored the original intermission footage.
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid included a ridiculously long (FIVE MINUTES) montage of still photos which served very little expository purpose. It is not an official intermission, but it is a great time to go to the bathroom.
- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has one on the home video release, with the full orchestral version of the theme music.
- The films of Hello, Dolly!, Sweet Charity and Fiddler On the Roof had intermissions at the same point as their stage versions.
- The film of The Sound of Music had its intermission in a different place than the stage version (which ended its first act on the Mother Abbess singing "Climb Every Mountain").
- The 3-D re-release of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 had an intermission between the two films.
- How the West Was Won - because the Cinerama system used giant horizontal film reels, the Intemission was essential to facilitate a reel change.
- Gandhi has a black-screen intermission in which Indian music plays. Necessary, given its 188-minute running time.
- The Hallelujah Trail
- Alexander, in the Final Cut version. It was also a disc swap.
- The King and I had an intermission added in for its 1961 re-release and 1999 DVD.
- Certain theaters showed Mary Poppins with an intermission arriving after the song in which Mary Poppins puts the children to sleep with reverse psychology.
- Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines
- Paint Your Wagon
- The Greatest Story Ever Told includes an intermission immediately after Jesus successfully resurrects Lazarus.
- Evangelion: Death & Rebirth has a five minute intermission between parts. The sequel is divided into two episodes, and while not having a true intermission, the film's credits play after the first episode.
Films with joke intermissions:
- Monty Python and The Holy Grail and The Beatles' second movie, Help, both cut to intermissions lasting fewer than 10 seconds as a joke.
- Kung Pow! Enter the Fist
"Perhaps a carbonated soda?"
- Sita Sings the Blues has a three-minute intermission sequence, showing animation of the movie's characters going out to get snacks and then coming back.
Theatre with notable intermissions:
- In A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Pseudolus triggers the intermission by saying it's the only thing that can get him out of his current fix.
- Moliere wrote a play with a whole other play that goes on during intermission.
- There's a scene near the end of the stage musical version of The Producers where one of the characters recaps everything that's happened so far — including the intermission.
- There's also a scene where the two main characters walk in and find their office has been completely repainted; they ask their assistant when she had time to do that and she replies "during the intermission".
- Vanities: A New Musical had one in its Theatreworks premiere, but it was later dropped. During this, Mary sang about her trip to Europe in the song "Open Up Your Mind".
- The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and The Drowsy Chaperone don't have intermissions, but the Show Within the Show of each of them does. Kiss Me Kate does have an intermission, and it's at the same time as that of the Show Within the Show—except a little bit shorter, so that the first scene of Act II is the cast and crew hanging out behind the theatre because Act II hasn't started yet.
Live Action TV
- ~Monty Python's Flying Circus~ used an intermission gag on at least one occasion.
- In the days of live TV some BBC plays had intermissions to give the actors and crew a break.
- The Sandra Boynton-penned kids' CD Philadelphia Chickens has an intermission. Or at least an intermission song.
Oh we've come to intermission so it's time to stretch your toes
- The Offspring album Ixnay on the Hombre includes a track entitled Intermission. True to its name, it's a relaxing bit of light jazz.
- Many live video streaming networks have a set of intermissions to use for whenever there's a sudden break in the action, such as when the streamer needs a break.
- Premium cable TV channels such as HBO or Showtime have occasionally done this for longer films such as Oklahoma, The Right Stuff, and Amadeus.
- In keeping with their commitment of showing "movies as they were meant to be seen", Turner Classic Movies often shows movies with the original intermissions.
- 1970s BBC Radio sketch show The Burkiss Way had a "brief intermission" in each show (always preceded by "Theme from A Summer Place"), generally consisting of sketches that had a separate theme from the rest of the show. On one occasion the Intermission took up about 90% of the episode.
- A tradition at nearly all of Ross Noble's gigs is for audience members to leave bizarre gifts on the stage during the interval. The more interesting ones will usually be incorporated into the show somehow. And given his penchant for going off on many different tangents, and taking quite a long time to make his the point, the subject of the interval/intermission will usually crop up doing his set:
"Please can we have an interval Ross... PISS IS GONNA COME OUT OF OUR EYES!!!"
- Order of the Stick has an intermission comic.
- Freak Angels does this periodically.
- MS Paint Adventures story Homestuck had an intermission featuring the Midnight Crew and the Felt.
- The Simpsons parodied a common intermission song as seen in this clip.
- Seen in the Tex Avery cartoon "What's Buzzing, Buzzard", which poked fun of food rationing during World War II. At one point a character imagines a T-bone steak with all the fixings, and there's a five second intermission "for drooling".
- Quest for Glory 2 parodies this with an intermission during the off-screen brigand battle. During an extended cutscene, your desert caravan of perhaps twenty is assaulted by hundreds upon hundreds of bandits, and even the narration box comments that things look hopeless. Then, intermission! And when you finally hit the space bar to return to the game, the first thing you see is your hero standing apart a true mountain of dead people, and the caravan reduced to about 7.
- Unreal: Return to Na Pali has this between missions.
- Wet has fake intermissions, both as part of its Grindhouse aesthetic and to cover loading times.
- Pac-Man was probably the first game to have intermissions (and they were even called that) - short animations every few screens to break up the gameplay. This was continued in several of the game's sequels (Ms. Pac-Man, Jr. Pac-Man, Super Pac-Man, Pac-Mania, etc).