Take the 2-minute tour ×
Movies & TV Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for movie and tv enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I asked my friends and none of them remembers having ever watched the credits after a movie to the end, except where the movie still continues after credits start rolling (short comic pieces or "what happened to the characters afterwards" short sequences or there was a special after-credits scene.) Anyway, none of them ever watched the credits for the sake of reading through all of the names.

In theaters, people usually just get up and leave when the credits start. I stayed several times until the very end just to see people who are talking to each other, lazing around or have fallen asleep. Nobody really was looking at the screen.

Credits seem to have become to people even less important than EULA for games and apps. They are also bloated with jobs that are remotely related to making of the movie.

There seem to be a few important messages like "no animals were harmed" or "pure fiction" or "tricks done by professionals" to be conveyed, which can be done in just a few seconds, but these are often put in the very end of the credits.

Credits seem to have originated a long time ago when there weren't that many people involved in making a movie and most roles were important enough for people to want to find out who they were done by. And it didn't take that much time to show every job. Now everyone seems to be only interested in actors, director, composer and a few others who are usually shown in opening credits and on movie posters.

I doubt somebody would want to know who was some fourth cameraman's assistant. All these positions must only be significant to the movie-making community, which probably has easy access to that info, and I don't see why it would interest normal viewers.

Why even have credits now?

share|improve this question
3  
see also movies.stackexchange.com/questions/16497/… –  knut Mar 16 at 19:55
4  
I'm going to take a guess before reading the answers: film industry unions require giving credit to their members. You phrase all your objections as though they are purely rational, but you speak from the perspective of an impatient viewer, not someone who might, say, actually find their name in the credits. What incentive does a filmmaker have to decrease their visibility? As you say, it's not like anyone has to watch the credits, but if they weren't there, how would it even be possible to know some of the names in them? –  Ryan Reich Mar 17 at 12:13
    
@RyanReich incentive could be to reduce production costs a bit, because those some 10-15 minutes of reel have their price. But I don't know how much that might cost, so I'm asking to find out. –  user1306322 Mar 17 at 14:29
2  
I watch through the credits on some movies, to see the names of people I know. :D –  Brian S Mar 17 at 21:35
    
I have respect for the fourth cameraman's assistant. Good job helping the additional unit complete the picture on time and on budget! Chin chin, you! And unless people watch the credits, you won't know if there's something after the credits. Even if someone told you, someone had to do it, right? –  Meat Trademark Mar 18 at 9:05

4 Answers 4

up vote 48 down vote accepted

Summary:

  1. Legal/contractual obligations to list all staff who've worked on film
  2. Evidence that staff have worked on film, which can be used to help them gain future employment
  3. Some movie-goers are extremely interested in credits and finding out who was responsible for what

Detailed Answer:

Union Rules/legalities

E! Online were asked a question about why movie credit were so long and as part of their answer stated:

"Films have always employed dozens (if not hundreds) of people in various jobs," Clark University director of screen studies Tim Shary tells this B!tch. "But before the '60s, they tended to be in teams, and usually only the leader of the unit received onscreen credit. So, the art director would be listed but not all of the people (painters, decorators, landscapers, carpenters, etc.) that worked for him or her. "Now, almost everyone who works on a film is a member of a union, and they have expectations about getting onscreen credit."

Could a director like Spielberg or a producer like Scott Rudin decide to eliminate those credits during one of his 18 daily ego meltdowns? Not likely, I'm told. During film's golden age, most movie workers were under contract to a studio, so the suits could credit their drones--or not--as they saw fit. Today, people hire themselves out film by film, giving them and their unions more power.

"The presence of many credits today are adjudicated by unions and guilds," says Penn State senior film lecturer Kevin J. Hagopian. "So, Steven Spielberg, even as a producer, could not decide simply to leave off these names."

...One other factor: cheaper movies. Black-turtlenecked indie fans love to joke that the size of a small film's credits is inversely proportional to the size of its budget. (What, you expected these people to have a real sense of humor?) Instead of paying cash, indie-film producers often offer key spaces in their credits as a thank-you.

"When freelancing replaced the studio contract system, studios and producers realized they could pay people less if they gave them credit," San Francisco State University film professor Joseph McBride says. "So, the proliferation of credits went bananas in the '70s and '80s, to the point that now even the honey-wagon driver is credited."

So there does appear to be legalities involved in having people gain credits. Some examples of this can be seen for particular "groups":

  1. Writer's Guild
  2. Producer's Guild

Acknowledgement used as a form of intellectual property

Quoting directly from Wikipedia, which rather nicely sums it up:

In the creative arts and scientific literature, an acknowledgment (also spelled acknowledgement) is an expression of gratitude for assistance in creating an original work.

Receiving credit by way of acknowledgment rather than authorship indicates that the person or organization did not have a direct hand in producing the work in question, but may have contributed funding, criticism, or encouragement to the author(s). Various schemes exist for classifying acknowledgments; Cronin et al.give the following six categories:

a) moral support
b) financial support
c) editorial support
d) presentational support
e) instrumental/technical support
f) conceptual support, or peer interactive communication (PIC)

Apart from citation, which is not usually considered to be an acknowledgment, acknowledgment of conceptual support is widely considered to be the most important for identifying intellectual debt. Some acknowledgments of financial support, on the other hand, may simply be legal formalities imposed by the granting institution.

So it appears many people, from actors through to cameramen, can use the fact they are included in credits as a form of "proof" on their CV so to speak, to absolutely guarantee they were involved in a project in that particular role.

An example of this on a minor stage, is the IMDB Credit System, which explicitly states that anyone can add their name as an actor to a film, but their system will check it against the official "credits" and remove it if not featured.

Public interest

Whilst I imagine the majority of film watchers do not watch the end credits, there are a some who do (call them Dawsons) and are genuinely interested in how a particular part of a film was achieved (e.g. how a sound effect was completed or who was in charge of animal safety, etc).

Edit:

To add in some of the fantastic points made in the comments:

Tom: People want acknowledgement for their hard work with a place in the credits, regardless of whether the audience will watch it.

Damon: The credits add to the length of the movie which increases the amount of money it can be licensed to broadcasters for.

Claudio Miklos: The credits are a piece of film history, recording for all time exactly who did what with a film.

share|improve this answer
4  
Also, friends/family of people in the credits also like watching to see people they know scroll by. –  JohnP Mar 16 at 18:31
2  
True. Also, movies like LotR give fans the chance to be in the credits through fan club membership –  Andrew Martin Mar 16 at 18:32
17  
TLDR: People who worked their asses off to make the movie wants to be acknowledged, whether people actually watches it or not. –  Tom Mar 16 at 18:33
2  
@Tom: Yes, but it's worth pointing out that it's more than just vanity. There are legal and contractual issues involved as well. –  Andrew Martin Mar 16 at 19:00
3  
One point is missing: It contributes to the length of the film, which matters both for selling the DVD and for broadcast on TV (since the amount of commercials that are legal depends on the length of the film in some countries). A longer film has more "ad value" and can be licensed to tv stations for more money. –  Damon Mar 17 at 0:01

In general sense, movies still need credits because every single person who worked very hard for the movie needs recognition.

I still remember, Danny Boyle who got an Oscar award for Best Achievement in Directing for Slumdog Millionaire mentioned Longinus Fernandes for forgetting his name in the credits and thanked him.

At the 81st Academy Awards ceremony, director Danny Boyle thanked Longinus Fernandes in his acceptance speech, while receiving his award for Best Direction, and also acknowledge missing out Longinus Fernandes name in the credits.

Check this for Danny Boyle's Oscar acceptance speech.

share|improve this answer

Aside from the many valid issues found in Andrew's answer, there are a couple other considerations:

  • Showmanship: The movie going experience is a show and every detail counts. What happens when the credits roll?

As you said, people leave. They gather their bags, stretch. The soundtrack is still playing, the lights are still dimmed but are progressively turned on. People start heading for the door at their own pace. For the few movies who hit the mark, people linger and enjoy to the last bit the movie going experience, especially those with a great score - without your attention on the story and the action on screen, the soundtrack shines through.

Consider the alternative: display "the end", cut off the sound and turn on the lights? After a couple hours in the dark, turning on the lights at once would hurt the eyes. Obviously the lights have to remain somewhat dimmed, but with nothing on the screen, it's a bit weird, no? Same for the sound: you can continue playing the soundtrack specifically composed to match the mood of the film and the expected mood of the spectator at the end of the film, or you can cut off the sound or play whatever music the theater chooses. People need a couple minutes to adjust themselves to the fact the movie is over and get back to their day to day life. Rolling credits exists for historical reasons, but it does also serve a purpose: it's the perfect transition from the film's fictional world and reality.

  • No harm done.

Once everyone is out, whether there is still 15 seconds of credits or 20 minutes makes no difference: the projectionist turns off the projector. As such the full length of the credits is never an issue in theater.

  • Learning opportunity - Gives a good grasp on what it takes to get a movie done.

It's a more geeky reason, but for some movies, I like to see how they organized the various teams and how much personnel they assigned for specific tasks.

share|improve this answer
1  
-1. Closing credits were not really established as a fixture in American cinema until the 1970's, so the lights issue is unrelated. I have worked every position in a theater with the exception of the overall head manager, and the projectionist does not "turn off the projector". The credits and the film have to roll completely through to enable the next showing. Occasionally the projectionist may raise the damper to block the light, but the soundtrack and film still roll through completely. –  JohnP Mar 18 at 18:29

Up until circa the 1960s movies didn't have end credits. The director, writer and main cast were credited in the title sequence at the beginning, and movies ended with a simple "THE END" title.

This was during the studio system, when films were produced in house by crews employed directly by the studio on a long term basis. These studio employees weren't credited separately on screen for every film they worked on.

After the collapse of the studio system, the studios (MGM, Paramount, Universal etc.) stopped producing films themselves; they turned into financing and distribution companies; the production of films was farmed out separate production companies, who hire crew for each production they work on.

As the crews who work on films are no longer permanent studio employees but are put together for each film, the unions have negotiated that everybody who works on a film receives an on-screen credit, as a record of previous experience is an important basis for finding future employment.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.