Do movies really get longer? We ask the expert | Movie


Zack Snyder’s Justice League: 4h 2min. The Irishman: 3h29. The last James Bond, the longest of all time: 2h43. Some of the most hyped movies of recent years are as well known for their length as they are for their plot. So is this the new norm – do movies get longer? I asked Sarah Atkinson, Professor of Screen Media at King’s College London.

I liked Tenet, but I remember want an interval and a ice cream. Am I the only one who thinks movies are longer?
Cinema is a bit of a machine and is surrounded by marketing, so what we hear is often what we remember. There’s a lot of talk these days about long run times. It’s all part of getting people to go out and pay for a ticket, which they won’t do unless it’s for something special – a big epic movie. Look at the Marvel franchise: almost everyone lasts well over two hours.

The Marvel thing of putting a scene after the credits was a worldwide crime against bladders. Have you met Przemyslaw Jarzabek, the data scientist who calculated the numbers around the duration of the film?
I did this, and he found that on average, the length of films does not increase; we just think it is. This does not surprise me. It’s all marketing.

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Why the need incentiveseen people go to the movies? ADon’t movies make money from streaming?
Yes, but Amazon and Netflix cut out distributors, marketers, and even theaters themselves. Also, movies can’t be nominated for the Oscars unless they had a theatrical release. Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma – another epic – went straight to Netflix but was also shown in cinemas. Cuarón himself even said that people should see it on the big screen because it’s a motion picture.

Isn’t a film cinematographic simply by virtue of to be at the cinema?
I see what you mean. Is a movie more epic simply because it uses more digital technology?

It’s strange how the length of a movie can be a sticking point, yet many of us have no problem gorging on 10 episodes of a series…
It’s not really a fair comparison. Streaming series are inherently fast-paced, with multiple storylines, characters, and cliffhangers. Whereas epic films like Dune, and The Lord of the Rings before it, are full of indulgent, long, quick camera shots: dialogue-free scenes simply to show off the beauty of the image.

How has the pandemic changed cinema?
Virtual production has taken off. So you don’t have to be in a location – you can be in a big studio, projecting the image you need, increasing the possibilities for special effects and more dramatic scenes. The TV series The Mandalorian is the epitome of this: players played in front of a huge LED screen. Virtual production progress that was supposed to take four years happened in one because the industry knew that was the only way to end things. I’ve enjoyed seeing filmmakers use the tools at their fingertips. I saw a horror movie, Host, which takes place on Zoom; it was about an hour. They say 90 minutes is the optimal time for a horror.

It is good to hear low budget and indie movies fly the flag for shorter Coursetime – and still in the making.
They are happening more than ever, due to the accessibility of technology and the abundance of ways to see. We always have film festivals; it’s just that the marketing machine is talking the loudest about the blockbuster. It’s an exciting time for cinema.

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