Fright Break

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The Fright Break was created based on the success of Castle's previous thriller films. This entails a 45-second timer which overlays the film's climax as the heroine approached the house harboring a sadistic killer. A voice-over advised the audience of the time remaining in which they could leave the theater and receive a full refund if they were too frightened to see the remainder of the film. To ensure the more wily patrons did not simply stay for a second showing and leave during the finale, Castle had both numbered[1] and different colored tickets printed for each show.[2] About 1% of patrons still demanded refunds, and in response Castle decided to spotlight the people who chose to leave by creating a "Coward's Corner."[3] Print ads promoting the film emphasized this "Fright Break" gimmick.[4]


The "Coward's Corner" was a table with a nurse holding a blood pressure cuff.[3] John Waters described it in his book Crackpot.

He also came up with "Coward's Corner," a yellow cardboard booth, manned by a bewildered theater employee in the lobby. When the Fright Break was announced, and you found that you couldn't take it any more, you had to leave your seat and, in front of the entire audience, follow yellow footsteps up the aisle, bathed in a yellow light. Before you reached Coward's Corner, you crossed yellow lines with the stencilled message: "Cowards Keep Walking." You passed a nurse (in a yellow uniform? ... I wonder), who would offer a blood-pressure test. All the while a recording was blaring, "Watch the chicken! Watch him shiver in Coward's Corner!" As the audience howled, you had to go through one final indignity – at Coward's Corner you were forced to sign a yellow card stating, "I am a bona fide coward." Very, very few were masochistic enough to endure this. The one percent refund dribbled away to a zero percent, and I'm sure that in many cities a plant had to be paid to go through this torture. No wonder theater owners balked at booking a William Castle film. It was all just too complicated.[2]

According to Castle, the gimmick worked "great," and that theaters earned an average of $20,000 weekly in box office sales, with only $100 in refunds.[1]

In Videohound's Cult Flicks and Trash Pics, "Time-Outs" came in at #3 on the "Film Gimmicks" list.


  1. "Homicidal". American Film Institute Catalog. Retrieved May 9, 2018.
  2. Waters 2003, pp. 18–19.
  3. Law 2000, p. 93.
  4. "Movies". The Kansas City Times. Kansas City, Missouri. June 21, 1961. p. 18 – via open access
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