As the Russo Brothers edit the final cut of Avengers: Endgame, the directors have repeatedly claimed that the current version of the film has a runtime of three hours, effectively making it the longest superhero film in the history of U.S. cinema. 180 minutes is a big time commitment for audiences to sit down and keep quiet in our increasingly distracted society, especially if they've just housed a 32 to 44 oz soda in such a relatively short amount of time.
With this in mind, a new rumor cited by Alan Cerny, writer for ComingSoon.net, claims that Marvel Studios is considering placing an intermission sometime in the middle of the film to help audiences cope with the epic runtime. While largely a product of a bygone era from Hollywood's past, reviving the feature for Avengers: Endgame makes perfect sense and should actually be strongly considered for this and other films, as the runtimes of blockbuster epics have been steadily growing longer and longer.
Lasting for approximately ten minutes, intermissions used to be the standard for epic, big-budget films. Ben-Hur, The Sound of Music, Lawrence of Arabia, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Godfather Part II are among the many major movies have featured intermissions during their theatrical runs. A hallmark from cinema's connections to traditional theater, along with musical overtures and printed programs, intermissions underscored the theatrical experience while allowing audiences a chance to stretch their legs, go to the bathroom, have a cigarette, or visit the concession stand.
With the advent of blockbuster filmmaking, kickstarted largely by Jaws and Star Wars, along with the arrival of multiplexes instead of single-screen theaters, the intermission was all but completely abandoned by the '80s. Hollywood runtimes began to noticeably shorten as it leaned more into the 90-120 minute model. A ten minute break in the middle of a movie decreases the amount of screenings a theater can show in a given day, after all, and six screenings a day with an intermission loses theaters approximately a full hour of valuable screen time.
As such, the last major Hollywood film to feature an intermission was 1982's Gandhi which ran for 191 minutes. Sporadically, other epically long films have included an intermission to make their long runtimes bearable. 1987's The Last Emperor and 1993's Gettysburg each ran for over four hours, and included an intermission accordingly. The most recent example within the United States was 2015's The Hateful Eight, which saw filmmaker Quentin Tarantino release a special "Roadshow" version of the film that extended the runtime to 187 minutes including an overture and intermission, as well as limited edition printed programs given to attendees.
But while the intermission has largely been abandoned in the United States, they continue to be a staple in India and Turkey, with many local films in both countries still featuring the mid-story break. But while they remain a rare beast in American cinema, and theaters themselves may not overly concerned about the necessity of a bathroom break or opportunity to stretch one's legs after spending over an hour in a recliner seat, the potential for greater concession sales may be the biggest enticement for the intermission's return.
Approximately 85 percent of movie theater revenue in the United States comes from sales at the concession stands. The reason popcorn, candy and soda are marked up in price at cinemas is to guarantee a larger profit margin for theater chains. Movie ticket sales are divided between the theater, distributor and studio, giving cinemas a bigger incentive to encourage audiences to visit the concession stand. An intermission would give audiences who need to make an emergency Raisinets run to recover from the superhero-tinged action they've just seen an additional chance to get snacks and drinks without missing a crucial moment of the film.
With the fate of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe at stake during Avengers: Endgame, fans are not likely to leave mid-screening for a quick bathroom break or refill. Should the MCU film live up to claims of running for at least three hours, an intermission would do audiences a much-needed service and potentially help give cinemas an additional revenue boost in the process. And as more and more films exceed the two-hour mark with their runtimes with audiences asked to stick around for mid and post-credits scenes, other studios should take note and consider adding intermissions of their own.
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Avengers: Endgame stars Robert Downey Jr., Josh Brolin, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Olsen, Chadwick Boseman, Sebastian Stan, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Bettany, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Benedict Wong, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Holland and Anthony Mackie. The film arrives on April 26.