What Is an Intermission?

An intermission is a brief break in a program or performance that allows viewers to refresh before continuing with the show. Intermissions serve a practical purpose for both the performers and the broadcasting stations. Intermissions in television programs are typically one to three minutes long in broadcasting. The duration of an intermission during a live show, on the other hand, is longer. Long intermissions can last up to twenty minutes, while brief intermissions are usually around five minutes. For live performances, the length of an intermission is frequently determined the size of the audience, with larger audiences receiving longer intermissions.

Because broadcast intermissions are geared toward marketing and advertising, the duration of intermissions varies between live and recorded and broadcasted performances. Because companies only have a few seconds to catch a consumer’s attention, most broadcast intermissions feature a short series of commercials, each lasting 30 to 60 seconds. Many people skip these commercials in favor of grabbing a snack or using the restroom quickly. If broadcast intermissions last longer, it’s usually because a program ran longer than expected and the station needs something to keep the airwaves occupied until the next scheduled program begins.

Advertising is not a main focus of an intermission in a live performance, though goods related to the show may be available for purchase on site. If the host wants to promote something, he or she may do so briefly, but most advertisements are found in the show’s printed programs. Instead, the emphasis is on allowing viewers to use the restroom, read their programs, socialize, possibly get a drink from a water fountain, and stretch. This takes a long time because the host must accommodate hundreds of people instead of just a few people sitting around a television.

Intermissions can be used hosts behind the scenes in a live performance to change set pieces or lighting and audio controls. The show’s musicians and performers usually touch up their makeup, mentally prepare for the next act or song, and make any necessary adjustments to their instruments. Using walkie-talkies, coordinators double-check that all of the materials are in place and that all of the performers who need to be on stage right away are available. Intermission begins and ends with lighting cues, with lights up indicating the start and lights down indicating the end.

Intermissions are usually scheduled every fifteen to twenty minutes in broadcasting. Script writers are aware of this and carefully craft their work so that “cliffhanger” moments occur immediately prior to a commercial. In a live performance, performers are less concerned with creating tension and interest in order to keep the audience engaged. This is due to the fact that most people purchase tickets for a performance in advance, knowing exactly what they will see. Intermissions are usually scheduled in the middle of the show, or about a third to two thirds of the way through if the show is particularly long, or between acts.

The use of “filler” performances is one aspect of live-show intermissions that differs significantly from broadcast intermissions. If the host anticipates long intermissions, he or she may bring in a single performer or group to keep the audience entertained during the break. Because they don’t have as much experience as the headline acts or shows, these performers don’t always have the same reputation, but they are talented in their own right and gain resume material serving as the intermission act. Intermission shows are not something that people go to see specifically for, but they do enjoy them if they are available.