In the last few years, moviegoing has become a larger-than-life experience, and a part of that theater experience has felt like films seem to have increasingly grown longer and longer . . .
Some moviegoers have said this about Martin Scorsese's newly released masterful Western epic "Killers of the Flower Moon." The film is a three-hour and nearly 30-minute-long vicious tale of the Osage murders at the hands of greedy white men in 1920s Oklahoma who are trying to steal their oil money. Its runtime is not unusual for Scorsese as his last film "The Irishman" is also three and a half hours long.
But in the case of "Killers of the Flower Moon," its lengthy, bladder-busting runtime is causing independent theaters in the U.S. and overseas in the U.K. to include intermissions. According to the British theater chain, Vue, the break they've implemented during "Killers of the Flower Moon" has been a success with moviegoers. Vue chief executive, Tim Richards said that they've "seen 74% positive feedback from those who have tried our interval.”
Meanwhile, in the states, a Colorado theater that also had an intermission was told by the film's studio representatives that the intermission violates their licensing agreement.
This has ignited a larger discussion online on whether intermissions should be widely implemented for longer films. However, I don't believe films like "Killers of the Flower Moon" need an intermission and, while this may be an unpopular opinion, I'm actually against them in most cases.
One of the biggest reasons people argue that intermissions are needed is because they need to go to the bathroom. And to that, I say: Please, do not hold your pee during a long film. I urge you to go to the bathroom at any time because ultimately nobody really cares that much. Sure, it may be the slightest bit distracting from time to time when someone gets up to go to the bathroom during an engaging scene, but ultimately it won't ruin the entirety of the movie-watching experience.
Do not be scared to be perceived as the person who goes to the bathroom during a film because we have all been there. If you need a break — take it.
When I was watching "Avatar: The Way of Water," I knew I wasn't going to make it through the full three hours without having to use the bathroom during one of the hundreds of fight scenes in the film. Funnily enough, when I came back from the bathroom, they were still fighting. So I promise you, you really won't miss that much if that's what you're worried about. Reddit cinephiles also suggest using the app RunPee, which tells you the best time to run and pee during a film so you don't end up missing the most crucial parts.
One common argument in the pro-intermission column is that three-hour movies simply require breaks because people need breaks from long movies. I find that argument to be flimsy at best because why even go see a long movie in a theater if you already know you will need a break from it? If you know a film that long is being shown at a theater, maybe you should wait until the film is released on streaming so you can watch it in chunks. Is it normal to want to get up after sitting for a few hours? Absolutely, but does that mean you should go to a three-hour-long Scorsese film? I vote nah. Sometimes it's easier to pick your battles instead of fighting to change a well-oiled machine that seems to be working for most moviegoers.
I may not be the biggest fanatic of three-hour-long movies, but I go to see them in the theater because I want that immersive moviegoing experience. I watched "Killers of the Flower Moon" this past Sunday and, yes, I did become tired after the second hour of the film. Yes, I did close my eyes for a short break to collect myself. But that's OK, because it's a long movie. Nobody is denying that. Let's be real, I did it for "Oppenheimer," too. But does that mean I need an intermission for a break to get a snack or go to the bathroom? Honestly, no. I never felt the need to get up out of my chair and take myself out of the insanely intense and heightened atmosphere that Scorsese masterfully crafted in this film.
If we are discussing the moviegoing experience entirely, some say that intermission will only increase the audience's positive experiences at theaters. Intermissions will further prepare the audience to be more engaged in the film. To that, I argue that it will actually do the opposite — it has the potential to be detrimental to the moviegoing experience. Firstly, wouldn't an intermission just make a three-hour moving-watching experience even longer? Secondly, filmmakers are against it because it may have the potential to alter their artistic vision for their films. To me, an intermission would interrupt the rhythm and flow of a perfect film like "Killers of the Flower Moon." Directors, like Scorsese, have specific visions for how a film should be seen and if they don't want intermissions we have to respect their artistic vision, because maybe they know what they're talking about.
But most importantly, a film like "Killers of the Flower Moon" deserves and requires an audience to be engaged in its brutal story of the massacre of the Osage people from start to finish. It's hard for me to justify breaking up the film during scenes like when its main character Mollie Burkhart (Lily Gladstone) realizes she is not safe because her entire family is being picked off, one by one, by greedy, murderous white men who turn out to be closer to her than she realizes. The film is not meant to be palatable for an audience: it’s supposed to shake you to the core. An intermission would only allow us to remember it's a film and not reality – and it was very much the Osage people’s reality.
So ultimately, I don't think intermissions are necessary to enjoy a lengthy moviegoing experience. The experience is entirely subjective and what works for me might not work for you. But I would urge you to keep in mind that seeing a film like "Killers of the Flower Moon" demands the totality of your attention span. So if you don't have the stamina for a three-and-a-half-hour-long film, it's OK to wait until it's available to stream. You don't need to pee yourself to say on Letterboxd that you conquered a nearly four-hour-long Scorsese film in a theater.