Originally intended with breaks for the actors or speakers in mind, intermissions have become an opportunity for the audience to socialise, purchase and consume refreshments, or use the restrooms. They are also often an opportunity for the audience to buy items related to the show such as CDs, high-quality programmes, art/photography prints and other paraphernalia. As a result, intermissions can have an important financial function for some venues. Some halls allow patrons to return to their seats with purchased refreshments.
Intermissions usually last between 15 to 30 minutes, and there are different methods to signal to the audience to return to their seats. The traditional method at an opera or symphonic concert is to flash the house lights several times, or to have a person with a handheld glockenspiel walk about the crowd, playing a four note chime. In more modern theatres, a brief chime through the PA system is used.
The intermission between the second and third quarter of American football games is called halftime. During regular games, the cheerleaders of the different teams usually perform for their side of the stadium. During the Super Bowl, elaborate halftime shows are also performed. Intermissions, in ice hockey, are breaks between the three periods of play.