In a motion picture, television program or video game, the opening credits or opening titles are shown at the very beginning and list the most important members of the production. They are now usually shown as text superimposed on a blank screen or static pictures, or sometimes on top of action in the show. There may or may not be accompanying music. When opening credits are built into a separate sequence of their own, the correct term is title sequence (such as the familiar James Bond and Pink Panther title sequences). Opening credits since the early 1980s, if present at all, identify the major actors and crew, while the closing credits list an extensive cast and production crew. Historically, however, opening credits have been the only source of crew credits and, largely, the cast, although over time the tendency to repeat the cast, and perhaps add a few players, with their roles identified (as was not always the case in the opening credits), evolved. The ascendancy of television movies after 1964 and the increasingly short "shelf-life" of films in theaters has largely contributed to the credits convention which came with television programs from the beginning, of holding the vast majority of cast and crew information for display at the end of the show. In movies and television, the title and opening credits may be preceded by a "cold open," or teaser (in other words, a brief scene prior to the main acts), that helps to set the stage for the episode or film.
Up until the 1970s, closing credits for films usually listed only a reprise of the cast members with their roles identified, or even simply just said "The End," requiring opening credits to normally contain the details. For instance, the title sequence of the 1968 film Oliver! runs for about three-and-a-half minutes, and while not listing the complete cast, does list nearly all of its technical credits at the beginning of the film, all set against a background of what appear to be, but in fact are not, authentic 19th-century engravings of typical London life. The only credit at film's end is a listing of most of the cast, including cast members not listed at the beginning. These are set against a replay of some of the "'Consider Yourself" sequence. Some opening credits are presented over the opening sequences of a film, rather than in a separate title sequence. The opening credits for the 1993 film The Fugitive continued intermittently over several opening scenes, and did not finish until fifteen minutes into the film. The opening credits for the 1968 film Once Upon a Time in the West lasted for fourteen minutes. The first sound film to begin without any opening credits was Walt Disney's Fantasia, released in 1940. In the film's general release, a title card and the credit "Color by Technicolor" were spliced onto the beginning of the film, but otherwise there were no credits, although closing credits were added to the 1990 re-release and are on the videocassette. This general release version has been the one most often seen by audiences. In the roadshow version of the film, unseen by most audiences until its DVD release, the title card is seen only at the halfway point of the film, as a cue that the intermission is about to begin. The intermission was omitted in the general release version.
Most Soviet films presented all film-related information in the opening credits, rather than at the closing which consist of only a "THE END" (Russian: КОНЕЦ ФИЛЬМА, Konyets Fily-ma) title. A typical Soviet opening credits sequence starts with a film company's logo (such as Mosfilm or Lenfilm), the film's title, followed by the scenarist (the Soviet Union considered the scriptwriter the principal "auteur" of its films), followed by the director, usually on separate screens, then continuing with screens showing other credits, of varying number, and finally, the film's chief administrator-in-charge, the production director (Russian: Директор картины, Direktor kartiny). Following this came the cast, usually in actor-and-role format for all principal and major featured players, and perhaps then a screen only naming, in an alphabetical cluster, some additional character players. The final credit screen identified the studio corresponding to the logo at the beginning, and the year of the film's production. It could also contain the frame with the technical information about the cinematographic film manufacturer (e.g., Svema). This basic method was also followed in most American films from the 1930s through the late 1980s, though, obviously, in American films there was no censoring of the director's name, except in cases of blacklisting. American films also tended to list the names of the actors before the names of the directors, screenwriters, and other principal crew members. Exceptions were made in the films of director Frank Capra, whose name was usually billed before the film's title. Director Victor Fleming's name was also billed before those of the actors in films such as The Wizard of Oz, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Joan of Arc. Capra, Fleming, and James Whale were three of the few directors who received the credit "A (insert director's name here) Production" even though they did not produce their films.
Many major American motion pictures have done away with opening credits, with many films, such as Van Helsing in 2004 and Batman Begins in 2005, not even displaying the film title until the closing credits begin. Similarly, Welles's Touch of Evil originally waited until the end to display the title as well as the credits; however, Universal Studios maintained rights to the film and did not implement this change until a 1998 re-release. George Lucas is credited with popularizing this with his Star Wars films which display only the film's title at the start. His decision to omit opening credits in his films Star Wars (1977) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980) led him to resign from the Directors Guild of America after being fined $250,000 for not crediting the director during the opening title sequence. However, Hollywood had been releasing films without opening credits for many years before Lucas came along, most notably Citizen Kane, West Side Story, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Godfather. Nevertheless, "title-only" billing became an established form for summer blockbusters in 1989, with Ghostbusters II, Lethal Weapon 2 and The Abyss following the practice. Clint Eastwood has omitted opening credits (except for the title) in every film that he has directed since approximately 1982.