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I miss halftime. Should movie theaters provide one?

“The Killers of the Flower Moon” is not short, nor should it be. It casts a spell at 3 hours and 26 minutes, dark and mournful but vibrant.

It may seem like some kind of movie epic, especially as the trailers market it. But director/co-screenwriter Martin Scorsese’s cinematic elegy for the Osage Nation during Oklahoma’s oil boom a century ago (when dozens of wealthy Osage were murdered before the newly created FBI took interest) relies on quiet, tense exchanges behind closed doors. . This is not a story of victory. A story of greed, racism and harsh 20th century history.

Would the movie fare better and attract larger audiences, especially in the 50-year-old bladder demographic, during a hiatus?

A handful of US movie theater exhibitors recently went rogue and went on hiatuses of their own, and then withdrew the film at the behest of “Killer of the Flower Moon” backers Apple Original Films, in collaboration with Paramount. (Apple is testing a distribution partnership with Paramount, among others, similar to Amazon’s deal with Warner Bros.)

Scorsese didn’t make the film with a break in mind. He didn’t like it when someone decided where to go, even if it was based on the customer’s request or the theater operator’s assumption that 3½ hours with intermission would be an easier sell.

Scorsese’s longtime colleague, “Flower Moon” editor Thelma Schoonmaker, had two words for the picture break to British newspaper The Standard: “Not true.”

Others advocate the option of offering moviegoers a break or a movie without interruption if they choose.

“’Killers of the Flower Moon’ is an extraordinary experience,” says Tim Richards, founder and CEO of Vue International, a specialty cinema chain in Europe, the United Kingdom and Taiwan. And I’d hate for someone who’s worried about just sitting in one place for three and a half hours without a comfortable break to not see that.

Richards offered customers both options in UK cinemas during its first week of release; one with an intermission of 1 hour and 42 minutes, as Scorsese intended, long before the FBI arrived, and the other without an intermission. Richards is cautious about the details and has confirmed the one-week break option. But that’s it now, he says. “The filmmakers, along with the studio,” canceled it.

Meanwhile, many other Vue regions, including those in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, continue to offer sanctioned breaks during the “Flower Moon”. These countries have long-established cinema traditions, and a halftime break for wine, beer or soda and popcorn remains a must for the customer base. Length usually has nothing to do with it; In two-hour movies, there is usually an intermission, no matter how neatly or clumsily placed.

Richards recalls trying to reintroduce the interlude, which began with one of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies a few years ago, which ran between 135 and 165 minutes. Third, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” truly felt like the end of the world. Working times can be deceiving. Many moviegoers, including Ben and Richards, thought “Flower Moon” developed at a masterful pace, not tense but not static either, which detracted from its length.

Once upon a time, most movies with a fixed running time in America, especially extra-long “road show” movies in big cities with high prices, adopted the intermission concept from the beginning. The filmmakers were after all the bells and whistles: the overture; Search with intermission music; intro music; exit music. It was an event.

Films of the required length and scope did not need to be long enough to be interspersed with a major action sequence. “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962) may have reached its climax with Peter O’Toole’s pre-intervention with thousands of extras on horseback in the desert. Instead (and very subtly), the interlude is with a simple walk-talk in which Jack Hawkins references O’Toole’s Lawrence: “That poor devil. “He is riding the hurricane.” “Let’s hope we don’t,” says Claude Rains, implying that danger and colonial apocalypse are approaching. Break! Remind me of the Maurice Jarre theme!

Other epics, like “Spartacus” from the early ’60s, also strike a stirring note: what’s next? In “Spartacus,” Kirk Douglas, who leads a slave revolt against the Roman Empire, promises to “smash every army they send against us!” Play Alex North’s music! Yes! The moment works. It’s not the best moment of the movie, but it’s a good time to pay the water bill, if you know what I mean.

I grew up in a time when non-ironic interludes were becoming less and less popular. (Funniest ever: Eight second pause During the Bridge of Death crossing in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”) I saw it again the other night, wondering how “The Flower Moon” would feel like it was split in two. At around 102 minutes, I carefully followed the possible transition point that Vue cinemas abroad offer as an option to their customers.

And you know? I couldn’t find a natural break at this point in Scorsese’s film. Story-wise, you can do better with the arrival of Jesse Plemons’ FBI agent, but that’s a bit later. The entire film defies an obvious break at the midpoint because it’s about a fever dream that never breaks.

Vue’s Richards agrees: “There’s no place where you think, ‘I can run to the bathroom.’ A movie that holds you. There are no grand crescendos, no peaks and valleys. “But that’s exactly why someone who needs some relaxation may have a hard time deciding to watch the movie without taking a break.”

The problem is that Scorsese never thought of his movie any other way. Richards says he has “more than 80 percent support” for the interim option. And he says he believes customers should be given a choice, especially at a time when the average movie length has increased by 30 minutes in the last decade and “theater operators are really struggling in some cases. The recovery has been much slower than expected. But our partners, the studios, have made commitments to theaters… it’s more “It’s something that hasn’t been seen before.”

I would love to live in a cinema world where big, ambitious films of all genres reinvent the taste and tradition of cinema. willfulFilmmaker-directed spacing strategically placed in the service of the story. “Flower Moon” wasn’t one of those movies because the director didn’t make it that way. So be it, Richards says, it’s just that “it’s all about choice.” Whose choice exactly… that’s an issue that needs to be resolved after the break, or at least continued.

Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.

mjphillips@chicagotribune.com

excitement @phillipstribune



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