The suggestion that Avengers: Endgame will have an intermission is a very bad idea. That's right, the latest rumors surrounding the MCU culmination aren't about the movie's mysterious plot at all, but its runtime; it's been reaffirmed by directors the Russo brothers that the current edit of Endgame is around the three-hour mark, which has led to subsequent suggestions that Marvel is considering having a break in the theatrical release.
That Avengers: Endgame will likely end up around three hours long is hardly surprising. It's a direct sequel to Avengers: Infinity War (itself two-and-a-half hours long) and will need to not only deal with Earth's Mightiest Heroes doing their finest avenging and undoing Thanos' snap to bring all the dead heroes back to life, but round out this era of the MCU. It's a big goodbye to at least some of the original Avengers (both Robert Downey, Jr. and Chris Evans' Marvel contracts are up), and that's going to warrant something of a scale the franchise hasn't seen.
What makes considerably less sense is the suggestion that Avengers: Endgame will need an intermission as a result. This is already Part 2 of a story that has technically been building over 21 previous movies; to put off the ending any longer is bizarre. Here's not only why the idea is incredibly ill-informed based on the history of the intermission and epic movies, but how it could be a major box office mistake for Avengers: Endgame.
- This Page: Why The Avengers: Endgame Intermission Rumors Make No Sense
- Page 2: How An Avengers: Endgame Intermission Could Hurt The Box Office
Avengers: Endgame Getting An Intermission Would Be Unprecedented
The majority of positive reactions to an intermission in Avengers: Endgame have highlighted how it would see a return to the days of yore, but that belies the real reason intermissions existed in the first place.
Historically, there were two reasons for an intermission from Hollywood's side. The more common dates back to the age of B-movies that played before the main picture; there'd be a gap between the two films included in the ticket. The second, and the one that has the more grandiose associations, is that of roadshows and epic movies. In the 1950s and 60s, when TV threatened the movie industry, Hollywood attempted to boost the prestige of going to the cinema. They did this with gigantic, lavish productions with tough runtimes and an intermission to create the sense of going to a theater. There were also "roadshow" previews where a movie literally traveled around America before a standard release that heightened this even further. Both of these practices fell away decades ago: the roadshow was a product of Old Hollywood and went away almost completely by the end of the 1960s, while B-movies haven't been an industry standard since the 1970s. The majority of people getting excited for Avengers: Endgame - definitely its target audience - were born when intermissions were long gone.
In fact, if anybody born after 1980 grew up seeing movies with an intermission, that's more a sign of the limitation of their local theater. Before digital, films were typically projected on 35mm film, made up in reels of around 10 minutes in length. Many screens would have two projectors side by side to switch reels seamlessly (see Fight Club and its discussion of cigarette burns), but others with just one projector would spool the individual reels onto a larger one. However, films over two or so hours couldn't fit on a single reel and so it needed to be replaced mid-film; and thus an intermission was introduced. Here, it wasn't an attempt to heighten the cinemagoing experience, rather a product of technical limitations. Any nostalgia from the practice comes from fond memories of the film, not the methodology itself.
Today, there's absolutely no industry need for an intermission on any film; the marketing or mechanical reasons do not exist anymore. Indeed, the biggest film in recent memory that utilized one was the 70mm version of Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight, which was an explicit throwback to the roadshows of yore and got a limited run alongside a more conventional release. Beyond that, there are few prior examples to warrant Endgame having an intermission.
Longer Movies Than Avengers: Endgame Didn't Have Intermissions
As already stated, the latest reports on Avengers: Endgame's runtime suggest that the edit is (rather sensibly) currently around three hours long. This isn't like reports of Black Panther's first cut being four hours or Glass being three where it was just a very rough assembly; this is a conceivably releasable film that the Russo brothers are now tightening up.
The pervasive thinking is that three hours is simply too long for a major tentpole and so it needs a break to help audiences. Where this falls down is the complete lack of precedent. In 2003, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King came in at a whopping 200 minutes (3 hours and 20 minutes). It was likewise the end of a grand cinematic journey with an epic scale that justified the runtime, and that didn't get an intermission. That same can be argued for James Cameron's Titanic (3 hours and 15 minutes) a few years earlier and Christopher Nolan's Interstellar (which came in at 2 hours and 49 minutes). All of these movies were financially successful and roundly praised, with most criticisms not coming from length.
Since those examples, we have only moved further away from length aversion. Tentpole movies are, on average, longer - the knockabout Aquaman was 2 hours 20 minutes - and audiences have only come to accept it more and more. Some may bemoan the lack of toilet break, but that's been true for decades. On the whole, three hours for Avengers: Endgame is not some ridiculous excess and viewers don't need a buffer to ensure continued engagement.
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019