Ultra Swank - Retro Adventures

It’s Intermission Time Folks!

Written by Christopher Alm • February 16th, 2010

Anyone who has ever enjoyed a movie at a drive-in theater back in its heyday, knows that seeing the movie was just one part of the enjoyment. Families made the drive-in a weekend adventure, filled with food, laughter and goodies that dad picked up from the concession stand during the intermission.

These intermissions were mainly a product of a Chicago based company called Filmack Studios, that has been in business since 1919 and is still alive today. Other big companies include Alexander Film Company of Colorado Springs, Motion Picture Advertising of New Orleans, and National Screen Service’s Los Angeles studio which were responsible for all the Jay Ward-ish (Rocky & Bullwinkle etc) looking cartoons.

Usually, the standard procedure would to be to de-brand the beverages and treats seen in the short films so no manufacturer was favored over another. It also made production cheaper and in a way timeless, seeing that many of these intermission rolls were seen up until the late 1970s in many theaters. Animation was also preferred for these clips.

The intermission ran on a 5 or 10 minute reel and with every minute it would remind its patrons how long until the feature movie starts. Above is a example on one of these 10 minute intermissions circa 1960, styled to make it look like more authentic. Below are two more fine examples.

Which is your favorite intermission clip?

Image via DeviantArt

Christopher Alm

Christopher founded Ultra Swank in 2005. Has a crush on mid-century graphic design, defunct airlines, Disneyland and the Century 21 Exposition. Is a collector of easy listening music from the 60s and 70s and a Swedish expat living in Barcelona, Spain.

Find out more about Christopher Alm

  • Diego

    This was a hoot! My favorite wasn't here but I remember it included a sort of song and dance number by an animated 'primitive' who translated oombalaba as popcorn. I don't remember any of the food or drink being as tempting as they were in the lead-up films.

  • Barbara

    My favorite was actually a Dr. Pepper commercial that I only saw at drive-ins during the winter. Serve Dr. Pepper HOT!! We would always make gagging noises when we saw that one. Second favorite is the song “Let's All Go to the Lobby” with animated snack items….

  • Roman G.

    This was great. The framing device of the drive-in and chirping crickets was neat.

    Speaking of Filmack, their snipe “Let's All Go To The Lobby” was selected for preservation by the United States Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. A true American classic !

  • Drive-In Fan 66

    Wow, most of your information is totally wrong. Filmack only made a small portion of the “trailers” you describe. Most intermission trailers were made by the Alexander Film Company of Colorado Springs, Motion Picture Advertising of New Orleans, and National Screen Service's Los Angeles studio (including the ones you incorrectly attribute to Jay Ward). Filmack was one of the “cheap” companies, whose animation leaved much to be desired. They were responsible for the clock titled “Variety Show,” which has the hot dog-jumping-into-bun shot. Filmack mostly did custom announcement trailers for individual theatres, and were lesser known for rolling stock like intermission clocks. Filmack specialized in quick, one-off ditties like, “A FREE Bike will be Given away Next Wednesday,” or “Don't Miss Our Big Halloween Show at 8pm”… and that's about all. They are only mentioned so frequently today because they are still solvent; largely from doing the custom business.

  • I stand corrected, thank you for your input.

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