From Iceland — Debate: Should There Be Intermissions During Movies?

Debate: Should There Be Intermissions  During Movies?

Debate: Should There Be Intermissions During Movies?

Published June 25, 2015

Hannah Jane Cohen York Underwood
Photo by
Magnús Andersen

In Iceland, movies have intermissions. Some people love them; other people hate them. We have two Grapevine contributors weigh in. The format is simple. Each writer gets 250 words for an opening argument. The writers don’t know what the other person wrote until they hand in their opening argument. The writers then write a response and hand it in. They get to read each other’s responses before writing their closing statements. They are competing to be the most profound, persuasive, and polished. You decide who wins.

Opening statement

York: My American opponent is going to attempt to persuade you that intermissions are either bad or unnecessary. She will talk about the moviegoing experience and she’ll reference some misery-porn movie, something mentioning the Holocaust most likely. Her arguments come from a corporate American lens: one that NOT ONLY belittles but is ALSO condescending to the non-American moviegoer. We don’t like to be rushed in and out—forced to power through movies of serious length without time for reflection or refreshments. Next she’ll be promoting inflated popcorn prices, a strategic cash grab when there is no intermission for refuelling. With an intermission, you can buy less and eat when you’re hungry—not incessantly for no reason like our American counterparts.

The real issue is about respect for both the audience and the movie. The movie isn’t meant to be casually viewed while in a sugar coma. The movie isn’t meant to be sacrificed for urinary discomfort or muscle cramping. You’re a living person with needs and a theatre with an intermission doesn’t aim to take those from you for economic benefit. We’ll keep our bathroom break… at least we’re less full of shit.

The American dream is dead when a person can’t have a smoke break while watching ‘Mad Max‘. The factory-floor approach to business is fine for the American automobile industry (it’s doing SO WELL), but Henry Ford’s brainchild has no place in the arts. We’ll keep our break.

Hannah: Last weekend I sat in the movie theatre, wholly engrossed in watching the bad bitches of ‘Mad Max’ drive through a post-apocalyptic wasteland. I was at the climax of my feminist voyeur fantasy, about to totally break free from the bonds of the patriarchy, when, without any warning, the screen went black and pop music started playing. I was like, “This is a weird directing choice.” But everyone started getting up. What the fuck? I then learned that Iceland’s movies have intermissions. As an articulate cinephile, all I can say is that this is the worst idea ever.

The film intermission completely takes you out of the moment. I’m going to start this argument with a hypothetical situation: take any movie, hm, for this example, let’s say ‘Schindler’s List’ or something. Now please tell me where you think the appropriate place for a little break in that is. You know —where’s the moment where it’s time to go buy some more M&Ms, giggle with your movie-date, and check your Facebook? C’mon!

Think about it: would the moment when Oskar Schindler tearfully offers up his gold pin for another two to three Jews be so powerful if you had just sat back down in your seat after checking your ex-girlfriend’s Snapchat story? The answer is no. You’d be like, “Wait, why is he crying? Oh yeah, the Holocaust, forgot about that. Shit, Sally is such a slut!” Case closed.

Next argument

York: Predictably my American opponent will focus her energy on attacking me personally, ad hominem.

In my opening statements, I mentioned respect for the audience and the freedom of choice the intermission gives. Another important factor is biology: you can’t focus intently for more than 45 minutes. The MIT Center for Academic Excellence states “that changing gears frequently increases the amount of information absorbed, 45-50 mins followed by a ten minute break for the best results.” Any argument that doesn’t take into account the science behind information absorption is merely conjecture. The facts don’t lie, unlike my opponent.

Hannah: Ok, moving away from the Holocaust (but good prediction buddy)…

My opponent argues that I am a “corporate American” looking for a “cash grab.” Cash grab? Movie tickets here are 1,300 ISK (10 USD), while the average movie ticket in the United States is 8 USD. Intermission = longer time in theatre = more $$.

Also, eating less? Hell no. The person next to me bought a large popcorn pre-film and a soda and candy at intermission. That’s 2,000+ kcal and like 2,000 ISK. If Icelanders want to remain svelte and rich, they need to 86 the intermission.

And stop using the pronoun “we”—you are Canadian, not Icelandic. Who the hell are you speaking for?

Final statement

York: The intermission increases the experience for the moviegoer. Going to the movies in America means sitting next to someone without speaking for two hours when it should be a chance to create memories. The type of movie should dictate the intermission: some movies should have more than one.

Hannah: You know what? I don’t care what MIT says. We (yes, WE) all know the feeling of being lost in a film for more than 45 minutes and leaving a changed person. An intermission is like a fucking hatchet to that magic. Movies are vehicles for escapism and apotheosis. Don’t kill that beauty.

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