The Atlantic

The Nearly Extinct Movie Tradition Filmmakers Should Bring Back

For theatergoers, the all but obsolete musical overture is a bridge between real life and the world they’re about to enter.
Source: Frederic J. Brown / AFP / Getty

The movie overture—music set against a blank screen or still images before the drama unfolds—all but disappeared from film sometime in the 1970s. Once a Hollywood mainstay, overtures evolved naturally from their use in opera and road shows, giving moviegoers time to find their seats and settle in before the main feature. But these musical pastiches also served an important cinematic function: They allowed audiences a chance to put aside their thoughts of the outside world. With curtains drawn and house lights dimmed, overtures drew moviegoers in, and inward, toward a space of anticipation.

In a culture that seems in all its forms, the overture’s virtual obsolescence might have as much to do with box-office economics as with a fear of open-endedness. Given no option but to sit and wait, audiences quickly grow restless. But

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