Until the 1970s it wasn't unusual not to see any sort of closing credits at the end of films. While the occasional film such as Around the World in 80 Days (1956) had elaborate closing credits, it wasn't until the '70s that it became the norm to list and acknowledge all those who worked on the film, not just the major cast and crew.
These days credit sequences seem to stretch longer and longer, with films such as The Lovely Bones, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Mockingjay – Part 1 all having closing credits running longer than 10 minutes. Despite this, with busy lives and short attention spans I doubt most of us even make it through the main cast list before making a dash for the door.
However there is one rather recent addition to films that are ensuring that audiences stayed firmly glued to their seats until the very last credit rolls: post-credits scenes.
Post-credits scenes are not an entirely new thing, having been popularized in modern film thanks to The Muppet Movie back in 1979. But, over the last decade certain studios and franchises have become extremely well known for including them in their films. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films all frequently include post-credits (or even mid-credits) scenes. In fact, the MCU post-credits scenes are so hotly anticipated that their subject matter is often hotly debated.
Often the scenes offer hints or teasers for upcoming films in the franchise, or just a funny epilogue to the film. But whatever their subject matter, they're all doing one thing: Forcing the audience to watch every single credit that rolls past their screen.
So why is this a big deal? Well, interestingly there's actually a hierarchy in credits. While there are no industry rules about what order the closing credits are structured in, there are established conventions which are followed by most film makers. Over on Indietalk.com, Zak Forsman posted the hierarchy for closing credits as follows:
In the top half of the closing credits are all the usual suspects, but below the halfway point you get into crew from the Stunt Department, Production Department, along with the caterers and equipment makers. Another group sandwiched in there, just before the song credits, is the Post-Production Department.
With the rapid advancements made in visual effects over the last two decades, the post-production team has become a huge part of film making. Films such as Avatar and The Jungle Book, and franchises such as MCU, DC Extended Universe and Star Wars simply wouldn't be possible (or look nearly as good) without the tireless work of the post-production teams. Jungle Book director Jon Favreau even made a point to continually refer to the film's effects team as artists in the press tour for the film, calling the film "handmade."
It's interesting then, that despite this massive contribution to films, the Post-Production Department appears so far down the credits, so far down that most people would leave the theater before seeing them. But, that's where the post-credits scenes are doing their part.
With the chance of seeing a bonus clip or epilogue, many cinemagoers now sit through the entire closing credit sequence before leaving the cinema, making them see just what a huge cast of behind-the-scenes superheroes went into making their onscreen superheroes look so fantastic.
Whether it's an intentional move from filmmakers or simply a nice by-product, I'm unsure. But either way, over the coming weekend millions of people will be watching the closing credits for Captain America: Civil War in their entirety in anticipation of that sweet, sweet post-credits scene. Oh and by the way, by far the biggest team working on Captain America: Civil War was the visual effects team, followed by the stunt team and camera and electrical department. Food for thought, don't you think?