You Probably Never Noticed Films Stopped Doing This One Thing

What happened to opening scene credits?

You Probably Never Noticed Films Stopped Doing This One Thing

DMARGE exclusively spoke with Dr Bruce Isaacs, Associate Professor of Film Studies at Sydney University, to discuss why films seem to no longer feature opening credit scenes – and whether that’s a good or bad thing…

Recently, a colleague told me that his grandfather was outraged that movies seem to no longer have opening credit scenes. And I thought, ‘Ooh the old timer might be on to something’…

Think of the James Bond films where the audience looks through a gun barrel to see the 007 spy walking along before suddenly shooting directly at viewers while dramatic music plays. Or the playful jazz-fuelled blue and black illustrated opening to Catch Me If You Can.

These kinds of graphically designed opening title sequences are rare in films these days; most film’s names flash onscreen briefly during the first ten or so minutes and that’s it. Some films nowadays don’t even show its title until the end.

WATCH: The opening title sequence from Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film ‘Catch Me If You Can’…

And so, I spoke to Associate Professor of Film Studies and Director of the Film Studies Program at the University of Sydney, Dr Bruce Isaacs, to explore why opening credit scenes are progressively becoming a thing of the past.

“My own sense is that we’ve lost some of the appetite for the ‘theatricality’ of cinema, preferring films to look, feel, and convince us that they display a fully enclosed world.”

Dr Bruce Isaacs

“Once you separate a credit sequence from the action, you’re opening up a separate cinematic space, which can be quite strange for a viewer more accustomed to losing themselves in the story world of the film.”

Dr Isaacs went on to say that while he’s personally a fan of opening title sequences, there’s no consensus between film experts and critics on whether an opening credit scene enhances – or detracts from – a film; it all comes down to personal preference.

“[it is] a matter of opinion. If a credit sequence punctures the ‘reality’ of the movie, and is, therefore, a stylised set piece, it’s a very unique artistic form within the movie. I personally love credit sequences because I see them as part of a creative aesthetic separate from, but related to, the film.”

Dr Bruce Isaacs
Dr Bruce Isaacs’ favourite opening credit scenes of all time are the ones from David Fincher’s 1995 film, Se7en (pictured above) and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 film, North by Northwest. Image Credit: New Line Cinema

Naturally, I couldn’t resist asking if streaming services were to blame for more and more movies choosing to forego opening credit scenes; as platforms like Netflix Australia allow users to skip opening credits with just the click of a button, which ultimately makes them redundant. Dr Isaacs thinks yes, streaming services are partly to blame but as it’s such a popular feature, there’s clearly a demand for skipping opening title sequences from films and movies.

“[It’s] a natural outcome of the viewer-determined structure of the product… [Features that allow viewers to skip opening credits] suits the binge viewing regime of streaming services. That said, I think the viewer loses something in not engaging the strange spacetime of the credit sequence.”

Dr Bruce Isaacs

The film industry is ever-changing, of course, so while opening credit scenes are unpopular now, perhaps one day most films will again feature opening credit scenes – you know what they say, history repeats itself. I hope it does, at least for my colleague’s grandpa’s sake…

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