Dutch Quirk #133: Pause halfway through a film in the cinema

Lights, camera, [pause]... action 🎬

HomeUltimate List of Dutch QuirksDutch Quirk #133: Pause halfway through a film in the cinema

Have you ever settled into your cinema seat only to realise you forgot your final toilet break just before the movie starts? No need to worry in the Netherlands — you’ll have a chance halfway through.

Lights, camera, [pause]… action 🎬! Many Dutch cinemas still run old Hollywood-style, with a 10 to 15-minute intermission in the middle of the screening.

What is it?

In the Netherlands, the experience of watching a movie and a sports game have one thing in common: a short halftime break. 

It gives you the chance to stretch your legs, refresh, and spend more money at the concession stands. It’s certainly welcome with films the length of Oppenheimer and Babylon. 

You’ll experience this in most independent cinemas and several chains here. There are some exceptions, but children’s films and films longer than 2.5 hours are almost always put on pause.

Why do they do it?

Intermissions weren’t always driven by snack sales and dwindling attention spans — its origins are extremely practical.

In the early days of cinema, projector operators needed to change the projector reels and, thus, needed a break during the film. 📽

READ MORE | Tom Holland in Holland?! 7 times the Netherlands appeared in Hollywood movies

Nowadays, the technology is more efficient, but with movies longer than three hours on the rise, the intermission fulfils other needs.

Especially following the pandemic, cinemas lost income when they could reopen but not sell food or drinks. The intermission has become a neat way to earn extra proceeds in the popcorn department. 🍿

Why is it quirky? 

For one, the intermission has been phased out in most countries, so the Dutch cinema experience is one of few that maintains this tradition.

It’s also extremely divisive! Some viewers are against the interruption, thinking it makes the experience awkward, while others welcome the break.

The Netherlands even got into some hot water for implementing a break in Martin Scorsese’s almost 3.5-hour-long film, Killers of the Flower Moon — the act was called “a violation” by the film’s Oscar-winning editor. 😬

Should you join in? 

You might not have a choice! In cinemas that opt to include the intermission, you can’t stop those bright lights from flooding back on. 

READ MORE | Amsterdam voted one of Europe’s best cities for cinema lovers

It is largely embraced by the Dutch moviegoing crowd as an opportunity to grab more snacks and a half-time debrief about the film.

However, if you really like to stay in the zone while watching, there are still plenty of cinemas that skip intermissions.

Perhaps the most unfortunately timed interval comes in screening Titanic, where the break hits at just the same time as the iceberg (SPOILER!).

What do you think of this Dutch quirk? Have you experienced it? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image:Freepik
Lottie Gale 🇬🇧
Lottie Gale 🇬🇧
Lottie joins DutchReview as an editorial intern after gaining a Bachelor’s in English from her native England. She continues to pursue all things literature in her MA Literature Today at Utrecht University. She is loving life here, and the ever-looming rainclouds often make it feel like a home from home. Lottie arrived to complete her studies and hone her writing skills — she’ll stay for the Dutch tranquility, tulips and tompouce.


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