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.
Especially at drive-in theaters, it was common to show a "double feature" of two separate movies (which might, or might not, have a shared theme) with a longish intermission between. See Grease in the Film section below for an in-universe sample.
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. Notably, intermission is still standard practice in Bollywood, because Bollywood films have absurdly long running time by Hollywood standards (the average length is three hours), thanks to the existence of several lengthy musical numbers. The practice is so ingrained to the point that Indian theaters often force intermissions to films imported overseas, including Hollywood flicks that run for no longer than two hours.
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. (And actors need bathroom breaks, too.) There also an economic benefit, as theatres can make some sales at the bar and/or snack food stands (but the food and drinks 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.
This trope exists in sports as well. American football and basketball have halftime. In American baseball, an intermission takes place in the middle of the seventh inning, and is referred to as the "seventh inning stretch". National Hockey League games usually have two intermissions of about 18 minutes each.
If you're looking for the 2003 film, see here.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
- Gone with the Wind
- The Seven Samurai
- Lawrence of Arabia
- The Godfather was going to have one taking place before the newspaper headline montage, which is why there was one in the first place. It was intended to get audiences back into the story.
- The Godfather Part II has an intermission, though Part I lacks one.
- The Ten Commandments (1956)
- Ben-Hur (1959), which is conveniently split by the intermission between two DVDs.
- My Fair Lady has an intermission as Higgins, Pickering and Eliza leave for the ball where Eliza's upper-class guise will be tested. (This places it earlier than the intermission in the stage version, in which the first act ends on a cliffhanger at the ball as Eliza seems about to be unmasked.)
- 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 Mini Series 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, they included an intermission. The ABC is Australia's public broadcaster and doesn't usually have commercial breaks.
- 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.
- Many Bollywood films, which can frequently run over 3 hours, are shown with an intermission.
- Doctor Zhivago
- The Great Race (two minutes long, with music)
- The film version of Oliver! kept the intermission from the stage play. On the DVD, the Intermission also doubles as a prompt to turn the disc over to continue the film.
- 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. The play ended its first act on the Mother Abbess singing "Climb Every Mountain", while the movie relocated the break to follow Maria returning to the Abbey.
- 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. When HBO ran the film in the mid-1980s, the network ran its own intermission graphics with a timer counting down to when the film will resume.
- 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 "Stay Awake".
- Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines
- Paint Your Wagon
- Jeremiah Johnson, despite running less than two hours.
- Hondo, House of Wax (1953), and Dial M for Murder, all 3-D films, had intermissions, because the special projectors required extra maintenance.
- 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.
- Reds (which runs 3 hrs 14 min)
- The extended version Kingdom of Heaven had an intermission for its limited theatrical release, and keeps it on the DVD version as well.
- The extended edition DVDs of The Lord of the Rings trilogy have intermissions that also tell the viewer to pop in disc 2 to see the rest of the movie.
- The above example was also used in the original DVD release of Pearl Harbor. An "Intermission" title card appears after Roosevelt's "day that will live in infamy" speech. In that case, it told the viewer to put in disc two.
- West Side Story had an intermission during its premiere, but later lost it for several decades' worth of theatrical and home video re-releases, since director Robert Wise felt it broke the tension. The film version switched the musical numbers "Officer Krupke" and "Cool" to avoid a fairly lighthearted song closely following Riff's death (which occurs very near the end of the first act in the stage version). Similarly, "I Feel Pretty" was shifted to an earlier spot in the film (necessitating a possibly unfortunate change in the lyrics) for similar reasons.
- When The Rescuers Down Under was released to theaters, it was preceded by the animated featurette The Prince and the Pauper. In between both films was a 10-minute intermission introduced by Mickey and the Prince with a countdown clock placed below the credits. See it here.
- Since You Went Away, properly timed for right after the scene where Anne receives a telegram stating that her husband is MIA somewhere in the Pacific.
- Battle of the Bulge: (2 hrs 42 mins). Some home video releases have not only an Intermission, but also an Overture and Exit Music. They all have music playing over a static illustration.
- Red Beard: 5 minutes in a 3 hour movie
- Napoléon, which has a runtime of five and a half hours, has two:
- One after the Bonapartes depart Corsica for France, leading into act II.
- One after Napoleon and Joséphine's wedding, leading into act IV.
- A rare modern example was included in some showings of The Hateful Eight, quite justified because the movie is almost three hours long, and as a deliberate throwback to this era of movies.
- The four hour-long Zack Snyder's Justice League had a limited run in IMAX theaters, complete with a musical intermission courtesy of Junkie XL.
- Kung Pow! Enter the Fist
Betty: Go get some snacks. Perhaps a car-bo-na-ted so-da.
Ling: I hope they have Icees!
Chosen One: I have chosen the large tub.
Wimp Lo: My nipples look like Milk Duds.
Master Tang: I've got some yellow liquid for your popcorn! And it's non-dairy!
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Beatles' second movie, Help!, both cut to intermissions lasting fewer than 10 seconds as a joke.
- 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.
- Some Disney movies come to Blu-Ray with a feature called "Disney Intermission," in which pausing the movie allows access to extra scenes with the characters, clips of bonus features, or mini games.
- The Family Guy movie Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story (DVD version only) has an intermission between the second and third acts to tie in with the Framing Device of the cast attending the film's premiere, and the characters are heard joking around under it.
Peter: What the hell is this?
Brian: Well, looks like an intermission, a chance to stretch the old legs.
Peter: Aw, man! I peed in this cup for nothing?!
Chris: Uh, Dad, I just kicked over your Coke.
- 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.
- Molière wrote a play with a whole other play that goes on during intermission. This was a standard practice for a long time, only with other playwrights' plays happening in the intervals. A three-act drama could have a short two-act comedy within the intermissions. There are a huge number of short operas that exist to be played in the intermissions of longer operas, both as a chat/bathroom break and as a mood lightener.
- 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: The original play had the actresses remaining on stage in between acts, with the actresses making themselves look older in full view of the audience. The Musical had one in its Theatreworks premiere that was later dropped, during which 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 Showexcept 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.
- P.D.Q. Bach's "half-act opera" The Stoned Guest may have originally lacked an intermission, but at least its recorded version has an intermission take place while the singers hold a penultimate note.
- Einstein on the Beach, which clocks in at around four and a half hours, doesn't have any. Theatergoers are invited to take breaks and return as they please. Part of the motivation for the "Knee-Plays" is to provide an opportunity to do this without missing the main performance.
- In Wyrd Sisters, a group of witches cast a spell that fast-forwards the kingdom fifteen years so that the Moses in the Bulrushes hero will be grown up before The Usurper can do too much damage. In the official stage adaptation, the intermission occurs at the moment the spell kicks in; when the intermission ends, everything and everyone on the stage is in the same position as at the start of intermission, but fifteen years have passed.
- In Our Town, the Stage Manager calls out intermissions at the end of each of the first two acts.
- 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!!!"
- 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 Supernatural episode "Monster Movie" is done in the style of an old Hollywood movie, including an Intermission card showing up at a commercial break halfway through the episode.
- In the 70s and 80s, the CBC used title cards showing a single word ("interlude") to signal an intermission, complete with smash.
- Any band known for playing for 2 1/2 to 3 hours live (like Bruce Springsteen) will have an intermission, to give the band a rest.
- 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 toesAnd if you are an aardvark, you should also stretch your nose...
- The Offspring album Ixnay on the Hombre includes a track entitled Intermission. True to its name, it's a relaxing bit of light jazz.
- On Tom Petty's "Full Moon Fever", there is a CD-only track where Tom talks to the listeners, telling them this is the point where the people listening on vinyl or cassette have to flip the record over.
- The Carpenters' 1972 album A Song for You also includes a track entitled Intermission. On the original vinyl record, it was the last song on side one, where you'd get up to flip the record over. "We'll be right back... after we go to the bathroom"
- tool's Ænima features an organ-only intermission track which segues into a seriously heavy guitar riff.
- Live concerts by Hugh Laurie and the Copper Bottom Band have mini-intermissions for the band: during certain pieces that feature less than full orchestration, the other band members get a chance to leave the stage. The only person who is on stage for the entire concert is Hugh himself, and even he takes "hydration breaks" where he and the other band members "rehydrate" (by drinking a shot of 12-year-old scotch).
- 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.
- Quest for Glory II 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 series:
- The original game's Expansion Pack Return to Na Pali has Prisoner 849 giving their recount of the past mission, as well as their guesses about what's yet to come regarding their quest to escape the planet.
- Unreal II: The Awakening: At least in the PC version, the TCA Atlantis segments serve as breaks between planets/chapters, often serving as the players' getting up to speed regarding their next mission and the weaponry they collected, as well as getting to know more about Dalton's crew of Ragtag Bunch of Misfits.
- 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).
- EarthBound: At two points in the game where the action comes to a lull, the world fades out and a long retrospective passage of text scrolls down the screen. (In the Japanese version, these texts are notable for using kanji characters, whereas the rest of the game is entirely in kana.)
- Dynamite Headdy: The bonus game is presented as an intermission of the puppet show the game is set in. Headdy, the player character, steps outside to shoot some hoops each time one happens.
- The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: Some games in the Trails series has featured a short chapter literally called 'Intermission'. Normally appearing at the halfway mark, they're a chance for the player and characters to take a breather, featuring minimal combat, and an emphasis on conversation and exploring plot developments.
- Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story has an intermission of sorts in the Lumbar Nook area. While Mario and Luigi are drilling into a protrusion in Bowser's spine, Toadsworth and Toadley have a conversation about taking things easy and slow. This is followed by the game encouraging the player to have a tea break, and that an alarm will sound once Bowser's back has been healed. This takes just over two minutes, but a cheat code can speed this up to a few seconds.
- Danganronpa: Every trial has an intermission in the middle where the current host of the killing game (usually Monokuma) has a short skit.
- Darths & Droids has intermissions of three out-of-canon bonus gag strips in between each of the Star Wars films, and an extended intermission including a 12-strip off-screen recap story arc between Episodes III and IV.
- Grim Trigger has an intermission sequence in the middle of each book.
- There's an intermission featuring the Midnight Crew and the Felt. Those who decided to skip said intermission don't realize they missed a whole bunch of plot-relevant stuff...
- Act 6 is made of multiple sub-Acts, each with an intermission in between - to the point that Act 6 Act 4 was a four-minute flash animation surrounded by Act 6 Intermission 3 and Act 6 Intermission 4, both of which are extremely long.
- Kiwi Blitz has an intermission page between each chapter, usually in the form of a flashback. As the regular chapters are called "Tracks" and named after electronica songs, the intermissions are called "Sound Bites".
- The Legend of Maxx has an intermission where Jesse (the comic's creator) interviews the characters. The intermission occurs because the new version of Terraria (the game from which the webcomic is based on) is up and he's going to play it so that he can add the new additions to the webcomic.
- The Order of the Stick has an intermission comic.
- Sleepless Domain: The comic usually has one or more Interstitial pages between each chapter. The content of these pages varies — they often include Anemone explaining details about the comic's world, televised interviews with the cast, flashbacks giving hints of backstory, and checking in on characters currently Out of Focus.
- history of the entire world, i guess is a (mostly) rapid-fire video that has its two halves separated by a one-second intermission.
- 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".
- In the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Hare Do," Bugs uses the INTERMISSION/CURTAIN sign to have the patrons run back and forth across Elmer Fudd, who is hunting him with his "Wabbit Detector". Cut from most transmissions (for obvious reasons), during the first time the crowd is in the lobby, they smoke up a blue cloud of cigarette smoke.