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Author Topic: When should the lights go up?
Mike Blakesley
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 - posted 11-06-2017 04:57 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
When should cinemas turn on the lights at the end of a film?

The final scene of Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name plays while the credits roll – prompting audiences to object to the house lights being turned on. So how do theatres decide when to flick the switch?

Italian film-maker Luca Guadagnino’s new coming-of-age drama Call Me by Your Name has received ecstatic reviews, but not every cinemagoer has emerged from the movie content. According to reports on social media, branches of Vue and Odeon chose to raise the house lights as the credits rolled – even though they roll over the film’s moving final scene.

The scene may not be especially crucial to the plot, but it contains the last beats of an awards-worthy turn by its young star, Timothée Chalamet. So is flicking the light-switch the senseless act of a multiplex with no appreciation for the subtlety of arthouse cinema? Actually, no, says Dave Norris, a former chief projectionist at the Empire cinema in Leicester Square, London.

For several years, he explains, it has been a legal health and safety requirement that cinemas put their lights up whenever audience members are likely to be moving around; that goes for the credits at the end of a film, as well as the trailers beforehand. Now that most cinema projections are automated, there’s rarely a human in the booth exercising personal discretion.

Movies arrive at cinemas not on a reel, but on a hard drive. “The drive has a label on it with the film’s title, the length of the movie, what screen ratio it should be shown in and so on. And it also has the credit offset time,” says Norris. “The cinema puts a cue in their automation system, which will bring up the lights at precisely that moment in the screening.”

Most cinemas have a “subtle” lighting setting for the credits, which ought to satisfy both the safety rules and cinemagoers. But, Norris adds: “No two lighting levels are going to be the same from cinema to cinema.” In an age when more and more films have mid-credit and post-credit sequences, “when to bring up the lights is a grey area”.

Marvel movies famously feature multiple post-credits sequences, which often set up the next film in the superhero franchise. Modern comedies frequently include blooper reels after the film itself is over. The trend extends to arthouse: in his acclaimed 2005 film Caché (“Hidden”), director Michael Haneke revealed a crucial twist in a wordless scene during the final credits.

Corinna Antrobus, communications manager at Picturehouse, says most of its cinemas have projectionists, “who can apply a judgment as to when to put up the lights and by how much”. In the case of Call Me by Your Name, they would “aim to keep the lights low or off until … the scene has completed.”

Vue, meanwhile, confirms its lighting has always been “automatically sequenced to come on to a half-light as the credits start, for customers wishing to leave the screen immediately”. If customers complain, the chain says, it checks lighting levels for the screenings in question, adding: “We do not have different lighting policies for different genres of films.”

The Guardian article

My take on this would be, if you as a director are dumb enough to have the "moving final scene" of your movie take place while the credits are rolling, then you deserve to have the house lights screw it up.

With Marvel movies, I tend to put additional cues in to the turn the lights down during the mid-credit scenes. A little more work but I think it's good showmanship.

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Bobby Henderson
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 - posted 11-06-2017 05:19 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
There is no one single rule for when to bring up house lights. The timing of it should vary for each individual movie, based on its own end credits design. Unfortunately with big chain multiplex theaters nearly all of those apply a one size fits all approach to all shows.

It's acceptable to bring up the house lights if the movie's end credits immediately start with vertical scroll of credits against a black background. With those types of movies the major credits usually ran in the beginning of the movie. Some movies may have part of the scroll superimposed over imagery, with that imagery fading to black at some point. I'd kick up the house lights at that fade to black point.

Lots of other shows put a bunch of work into the end title sequence. Many only show the movie title in the beginning and run the major credits at the end, starting with the director's credit. Some movies put a bunch of work into the end credit sequences and even make them funny and/or entertaining. Tropic Thunder is a good example. It's very obvious the house lights should be brought up only after Les Grossman stops dancing. The credits shift to the standard vertical scroll against black background format. There's even a change of music provided as a cue.

The Marvel movies are a tough one since they put two or more mini scenes into the end credit run, with one often at the very end of the credits. It's extra work putting in all the cues to bring the lights up and down repeatedly. But that's probably the best practice in terms of showmanship. I would find it acceptable to split the difference, bringing up the houselights after the first mini scene and leaving them up from there. After all, you kind of want at least some of the crowd getting out of the theater to make way for the cleaning crew. It's a bitch for them if the house is still full at the very end of the end credits.

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Martin McCaffery
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 - posted 11-06-2017 06:11 PM      Profile for Martin McCaffery   Author's Homepage   Email Martin McCaffery   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
One of the old guys when I was just starting out told me the lights shouldn't come up until after the film "So the women could adjust their makeup and the men could wipe away a tear."

We were working in a porno theatre at the time.

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Kenneth Wuepper
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 - posted 11-06-2017 06:54 PM      Profile for Kenneth Wuepper   Email Kenneth Wuepper   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Better yet...
Keep the house lights off the screen!

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Justin Hamaker
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My basic rule is as soon as the credits hit the screen unless there are outtakes or something similar right at the end of the movie. Many movies now come with "end credit offset" and "start of crawl". I always use the end credit offset unless there is some reason not to.

The way I see it is people are heading to the door as soon as the credits hit the screen, which means lights need to come up. If I know there is a bonus scene or something people want to see within the first minute of the credits then I might leave the lights down for that extra time.

In the event of an artistic movie with a scene during the credits I would probably leave the lights down. I might even go so far as to post a sign on the auditorium door advising people they might want to remain in their seats once the credits roll.

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Timothy Eiler
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 - posted 11-07-2017 12:37 PM      Profile for Timothy Eiler   Author's Homepage   Email Timothy Eiler   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Martin McCaffery
One of the old guys when I was just starting out told me the lights shouldn't come up until after the film "So the women could adjust their makeup and the men could wipe away a tear."

We were working in a porno theatre at the time.

We never raised the lights in the Porn theater I worked as the movies started at 10am and ended at 2am

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Martin McCaffery
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 - posted 11-07-2017 01:05 PM      Profile for Martin McCaffery   Author's Homepage   Email Martin McCaffery   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I worked more than a few of those grind houses. This was in an old suburban neighborhood theatre (the Byrd in Arlington, VA) where they ran the soft-core porn like it was a real movie theatre. Color stage lights and everything.

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Marcel Birgelen
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 - posted 11-07-2017 01:22 PM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
My standard is a three tier one:

- House lights at about 33% once the credits start, unless the credits start over a scene.
- House lights at about 66% once the rolling credits start. When the rolling credits start immediately, the first step is omitted.
- House lights and lights pointing at the screen at 100% once the movie is finished.

Even if it's not required by law, the rule of thumb is that you turn on the lights once your crowd starts moving en-masse.

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Rick Raskin
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I worked a porn house in DC when I first started out. The manager told me if I saw the house lights come on and I didn't do it, to beat feet out the balcony door. Come to think of it, I never saw house lights on at that theater (ART, 9th & F).

My preference on house lights was to raise them enough to illuminate the aisles during the credits then raise them to full as the curtain closed.

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Jack Ondracek
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Ughh... how this included lighting at porn houses... but, OK.

I worked at one of the last big. very old single-screen houses in Seattle, long ago torn down for something else. In its last days, it was a porn house, though it was still easy to see what it once had been.

I worked that theatre's booth, maybe two or three times. Out of all the light switches and the banks of resistive dimmers that were up there, one turned on a few very-dim sconce lights, and another turned on a single bare light bulb, hanging by its wire behind the screen. If there were "house lights", I never found the control... not that the manager wanted them anyway.

Maybe a good thing. It'd be scary, thinking what one might have found down there if you could see your way around.

Interesting times back then. With the union there, a check was a check... content didn't matter (location did) and a relief worker could find himself at a porn house one day, and a flagship house the next. All got the same top-notch presentation! [Big Grin]

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Rick Raskin
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Yes interesting times indeed. Most of the downtown DC houses had been reduced to running porn. The only one left is the Warner which is a stage house now. The DP70 projectors are gone.

What this has to do with house lights is nil, but what the heck.

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Frank Angel
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quote: Mike Blakesley
For several years, he explains, it has been a legal health and safety requirement that cinemas put their lights up whenever audience members are likely to be moving around; that goes for the credits at the end of a film, as well as the trailers beforehand. Now that most cinema projections are automated, there’s rarely a human in the booth exercising personal discretion.

I would like to see that reg because I don't believe it. I think he just doesn't want to be bothered adjusting his one-size-fits-all automation. First off, as a regulation, it's much too vague -- how do you quantify 'when people are likely to be moving around'? And even if you did use that as a rule of thumb, which would be a logical one, in this particular film, if credits start rolling over an ongoing scene, most people who haven't been lobotomized are not getting up and leaving before the film is over. So of course you keep "show level" until such time as the credit crawl is over black or a still which obviously isn't an integral part of the movie story.

For those films that intersperse scenes with credits, I have no problem dimming down just a bit. But our "credits" cue level is just enough so people don't kill themselves and not much more ...in other words, I barely have to dim down much for those scenes to play well. And like Ken says, in decent theatre design, you should be able to bring lights up so that isles and seats can be lit fairly bright while still keeping direct light from hitting the screen... ideally, of course...which when you live long enough, you know nothing ever is.

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Bobby Henderson
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People can be moving around and leaving the auditorium at any time during a movie presentation. I personally try to watch how much I drink before and during a movie so I don't end up needing to visit the restroom before the show is finished. During just about any screening I'll see at least a few people heading out for a bathroom break or refill of popcorn or soda pop.

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Jesse Skeen
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Shouldn't this all be a moot point with digital? If they come with a "credit off-set time", that should be when the lights come up. If something is still going on when the credits start they should move that time to when it fades to black, or if the director wants the lights to stay down til the VERY end they could just note that.

I of course prefer them to stay all the way down to the end, but having them come up before then when actual thought is put into it can sometimes add to the presentation, as it helps the audience 'transition' from the movie back into the real world. It's a catch-22 when there's an entire scene after the credits though- if you leave the lights down then the audience will expect something to be at the end, ruining the surprise of it. When I made up film prints though, I typically cued the lights by starting at the tail end of the film and looking for actual footage rather than text, and the first place that happened is where the lights-up cue went.

To speak of "stupid customers," I've always thought people eager to leave the theater shouldn't have come to begin with. The most head-scratching showing I remember was the movie "Grand Canyon" in the 90s, where a lot of the characters said during the movie "I sure wish I could see the Grand Canyon someday." At the end of the movie, they finally DO get to the Grand Canyon, and the movie ends with a helicopter shot flying through it- but the credits start rolling then, so even though this was the final pay-off of the movie (actually getting to see the canyon) people got up and left! If they'd had that footage without credits scrolling on it, they likely would've stayed!

But then there's been a few other movies where a scene froze and faded to black, prompting people to start getting up only to sit back down when another full scene came on after that with the end credits still a bit away.

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Mark Ogden
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The best place for exit lights, IMHO, is at the start of the "rolling" portion of the credits, which typically begin with the Unit Production Manager and Associate Directors. That's also usually the point where any visual content apart from the credits has ended. Anybody who wants to leave before that can take their chances with the aisle lights.

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