A big band or jazz number from long before your prime movie-going years begins to play. It accompanies a dark screen with simple, white lettering on it. Anyone who knows and likes the films of Woody Allen will feel soothed and comforted by this. It means that person can expect another hour and-a-half of entertainment.
Some say Woody Allen's films are too predictable. The standard opening sequence used for his films is certainly no evidence against this. It has the same font, Windsor-EF Elongated, in the same arrangement with many of the same names as previous movies. The music isn't the same, but it's often from the same genre and from around the same time period.
This might be predictable, but this consistency in Allen's almost 50 films makes it as Woody-esque as his trademark neuroticism and New York settings. The familiar fonts and music are often used in the trailers and DVDs of his films, and in tributes to Allen. Sometimes the style of the credits works well with the urbanite feel of the movies. Sometimes it doesn't.
Let us look, for now, at the way that Allen opens his films. Hopefully, the reader will see a theme emerging.
Any Woody Allen movie starts like a normal movie. There are the usual fancy graphics for the studios and distribution companies, etc. And then the 'Film by...', '...Presents' and 'In Association with...' sort of credits roll in white print against the black background. Then it gets to the title of the film. The title won't be in a larger font from the others, or any different in looks at all. You'll have to pay attention to catch the title (though, of course, the case could be made that almost everyone who sits down to watch a film should know the name of it already), because it won't be a graphic with colours and a clever shape representing one of the letters. It's just black and white.
Immediately after the title is the list of stars. At the top are the words 'Starring' then a line break, and '(in alphabetical order)'1 centred. Then is a centred table of five to seven or so names of main stars arranged in two columns, and in flawless alphabetical order. If the number of these stars is odd, then one goes at the bottom centred in between the two columns. This is followed by a list of Co-Stars, in the same format as the 'Starring' bunch.
As is standard, after the cast come some main crew names and their jobs on the film. At the very end of this list comes the credit which is the reason many of the viewers will be in the theatres. It reads 'Written and Directed by Woody Allen'.
The pace of the opening is brisk. Overall, the opening credits usually take less than two minutes. From the simplicity of them, and the speed, the audience get the feeling that Allen wants to concentrate on the development of the story and not put his resources into anything else. The fact that he does not put the credits at the bottom of an opening scene suggests that he does not want distractions from the story. The idea of crediting actors alphabetically also shows he didn't want to worry about weighing the roles and actors in terms of importance and stature. This says a lot about Woody Allen's style.
There are exceptions to everything, though. In Bananas and Manhattan, for instance, graphics were used for the title sequences. Bananas was one of Allen's earliest films, though, and this theme of credits didn't appear until later. In Manhattan, pictures from around New York were used for the title sequence. In Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask, the title was probably too long for one frame, so each word before the asterisk was given its own frame, and the second part was put onto another frame. In Annie Hall, arguably one of Allen's best films, there was no music at all for the opening sequence, leaving a totally silent screen before the opening scene. There are many more examples of exceptions.
In every movie you'll find some deviation from formula, especially those from his earlier years, but the feel of his credits is still an important characteristic of his film-making, and it's the first thing you see in the movie that screams 'Woody!'.
The end credits are not much different from the opening credits. They are in the same font, with the same white-on-black arrangement as before and with similar music. They do not scroll up in a long list. Instead, there are several sets of credits, of about three to ten names each. When one set of credits has been given an appropriate amount of time, the screen switches to the next set.
The crew is listed first, with the job or title of the crew person on the left and their name (in slightly larger font) on the right-hand side. After the crew is listed, the cast is once again credited, but more completely than in the opening. Actors are listed in order of appearance, with the character's name to the left2 and the actor's name (again, in slightly larger font) to the right. If you read the credits lists of Allen's movies, you'll see a lot of names repeated. For instance Mia Farrow, at one point Allen's partner, is in many of his films.