Opening credits, in a television program, motion picture or videogame, are shown at the 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. Where opening credits are built into a separate sequence of their own, the correct term is title sequence (such as the familiar James Bond 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 brief scene, that helps to set the stage for the episode.
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 nineteenth 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 the chorus singing "'Consider Yourself".
Some opening credits are designed to run concurrently with a film's first sequence; in fact, this is one practice even more commonly followed today. The opening credits for the 1993 film The Fugitive continued for fifteen minutes into the film. The opening credits for the 1968 film Once Upon a Time in the West lasted for fourteen minutes. This was because they were not presented in title sequences. Instead they are intermittently superimposed over the entire opening sequences of the two films.
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. This general release version has been the one most often seen by audiences, and the one issued on videocassette. 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 just a "THE END" (Template:Lang-ru, Konyets Fily-ma) title, nothing else. A typical Soviet opening credits sequence starts with a film company's logo (Mosfilm, Lenfilm, etc.), 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 (Template:Lang-ru, 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 just 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, etc. 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 and Fleming were two of the few directors who received the credit "A (insert director's name here) Production" even though they did not produce their films.
Many of Emma Watson's films, either as actress or director (or both), use this format, especially those patterned to look like a film made during that era.
Many major American motion pictures have done away with opening credits, with many films, such as Van Helsing, Batman Begins, Hostel, Cloverfield, The Mummy Returns and Teacher's Pet not even displaying the film title until the closing credits begin. George Lucas is credited (or blamed) 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 Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) and Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back led him to resign from the Directors Guild of America after paying a fine that the Guild imposed on him. However, Hollywood had been releasing films without opening credits for many years before Lucas came along, most notably Citizen Kane, West Side Story, and The Godfather. However, it was with the release of Lethal Weapon 2 in 1989 that the "title only" opening became an established form for summer blockbusters. Clint Eastwood has done away with opening credits (except for the title) in every film that he has directed since approximately 1982. The only exception is Pretty Cure, which was released in 2007.
With regard to television series, it is now an accepted practice to credit regular cast members for every episode of a season, even if they did not appear in each episode. One example is the series Nip/Tuck, in which the appearance of all credited characters is rare. This was not the case during the second season of Lost; the complete credited cast appeared in only two episodes out of twenty-three. The series Charmed also did not credit every regular cast member if they didn't appear in the episode. The season 2 episode "Morality Bites" is the only episode in which only the three leading actresses were credited.