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Rogue ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Intermissions at Movie Theaters Spur Studio to Intervene

After a small number of independent theaters added their own intermissions to screenings of Martin Scorsese‘s Killers of the Flower Moon, the film’s team has stepped in to intervene.

The Hollywood Reporter has learned that there have been isolated incidents of theaters pausing the critically praised film — which Apple Original Films and Paramount Pictures released in theaters Oct. 20 with a running time of 3 hours and 26 minutes — to let audience members take a short break. After word got out about the practice, due in part to a photo going viral on social media that showed a sign announcing the intermission at a Colorado theater, studio representatives have informed the venues’ teams that this violates their licensing agreement and have received assurance that the movie will no longer be screened with a break.

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THR spoke to a staff member at one theater that had added an eight-minute pause to the film just prior to the two-hour mark. (THR is preserving the anonymity of the theater and the staffer as they fear further blowback from studios over the intermission policy, which they say has ceased.)

“Everybody was really into it because it’s a longer movie, and they’re like, ‘I wish we would have had it for Oppenheimer,’” the individual tells THR about audience response to the intermission. “People could come out, order another drink, stretch their legs, go to the bathroom and not miss anything.”

The employee adds, “People were big fans of it. We were going to keep doing it going forward with longer movies, but now it doesn’t seem like an option.”

One theater manager who asked to be anonymous, and whose establishment had previously added an intermission to the film, says, “Outside of the debate of whether or not there should be an intermission, or whether or not that creative or artistic choice should have been made, Paramount has done exactly what all movie lovers hope studios would do, which is help create a director’s vision onscreen in exactly the way that the director wants it to be seen.”

THR has reached out to representatives for Paramount and Apple for comment.

Scorsese is known for films with running times that can test bladders, and Killers of the Flower Moon is no exception. His 2019 Netflix movie, The Irishman, actually ran three minutes longer but did not receive a full-fledged theatrical release.

The extensive lengths of some recent studio titles have spurred industry debate, with director Alexander Payne saying at an event recently, “There are too many damn long movies these days.” Three of the top four highest-grossing movies ever at the global box office — Avengers: Endgame, Avatar: The Way of Water and Titanic — run longer than three hours. (Avatar, which holds the top spot on that list, spans a comparatively lean two hours and 41 minutes.)

Scorsese addressed his latest film’s running time during a pre-release interview with the Hindustan Times. He emphasized his hope that viewers experience Killers of the Flower Moon on the big screen, despite the fact that it will be available for streaming via Apple TV+ on an unspecified date.

“People say it’s three hours, but come on, you can sit in front of the TV and watch something for five hours,” Scorsese said. “Also, there are many people who watch theatre for three and a half hours. There are real actors on stage — you can’t get up and walk around. You give it that respect; give cinema some respect.”

Adapted from author David Grann’s true-crime book of the same name, Killers of the Flower Moon stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Lily Gladstone in a story centering on a string of murders on Osage Nation land in the 1920s following the discovery of oil in the region. Considered to be a strong Oscar contender, it collected $23.3 million at the domestic box office in its opening weekend, marking the third-best nationwide launch of Scorsese’s career, not adjusted for inflation.