Why are movies so long now?

Still from “Babylon”, the new film by Damien Chazelle (Photo: FilmAffinity)

A quick look at the audiovisual ecosystem will be enough for us to realize that its contents are increasingly numerous, fast and, above all, brief.

Our attention is constantly challenged by the incessant stream of tweets, reels, TikTok videos, etc. Faced with this saturation –not to say hypertrophy– of the audiovisual space, some authors have pointed out the risk that our capacity for attention is compromised, reduced. Such is the case of Nicholas Carr and its already classic superficial. What is the internet doing to our brains?.

In light of this circumstance, it could be assumed that the design of audiovisual material, such as films or series, would tend to reduce its duration –as happens, for example, in Self defense (tight, barenys Y White2022), whose chapters do not exceed 15 minutes in length–.

But the truth is that the duration of the films does not stop growing.

From left to right, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Ray Romano in a scene from "the Irish"by Martin Scorsese (Photo: Netflix via AP)
From left to right, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Ray Romano in a scene from “The Irishman” by Martin Scorsese (Photo: Netflix via AP)

minutes, more minutes please

The increase in minutes on screen is noticeable in films destined for movie theaters. This is the case in Avatar: The Sense of Water (James Cameron2022), with a duration of 192 minutes, the recently released Babylon (Damien Chazelle2022), with 188 minutes, or the success Avengers: Endgame (Anthony and Joe Russo2019) and its 181 minutes.

But you can also see this trend in movies designed primarily to be exploited by streaming platforms. streaming -What The Irish (Martin Scorsese2019), with 209 minutes of footage, and Bard (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2022) and its 159 minutes– or those aimed at more minority circuits, traditionally linked to independent or auteur cinema. In this sense we can mention Pacification (2022), the work of Albert Serra which takes place over 166 minutes.

What can be due, then, this increase in the duration of the films?

First of all, it should be noted that there have always been movies with an above-average length. Let us think, for example, of the classics such as gone With the Wind (Victor Fleming, George Cukor Y Sam Wood1939), with a duration of 238 minutes, and Ben Hur (william wyller1959) and its 211 minutes, to give just a couple of well-known examples.

238 minutes of film elapse until reaching this moment in "gone With the Wind" (Photo: FilmAffinity)
238 minutes of film elapse to reach this moment in “Gone with the Wind” (Photo: FilmAffinity)

The question that tries to be discussed in this article is the reason for the increase in the duration of the films in an era in which everything –the series, the wars between the platforms of streamingthe loss of attention capacity and the endless supply that encourages accelerated consumption– indicates that the trend should go to the opposite side.

a variety of causes

The starting hypothesis is that reason serves three purposes: on the one hand, the desire to broaden the narratives, and on the other, the need to differentiate itself from television fiction (or via streaming) and, finally, the attempt to justify the increasing price of a ticket to the cinema.

This problem, however, is not an absolute novelty, but accentuates features already present in the film industry since the Hollywood of the 50s. Already at that time, the need to distance itself from the television offer led studios to bet on longer works, with more stars, with more effects, more spectacle. Something like what happens today with productions of the type Avatar Or the Marvel Cinema.

"Avatar, the path of water"by James Cameron, lasts 192 minutes (Photo: Walt Disney Pictures)
James Cameron’s “Avatar the Waterway” lasts 192 minutes (Photo: Walt Disney Pictures)

In previous decades, cinemas had opted for a model of double sessions, inherited from the past, or for three screenings in a row. This was one of the reasons why the average length of a film was 90 or 100 minutes long.

Ironically, spirited productions blockbusterswhose duration exceeded the average by a few minutes –as Alien: The Eighth Passenger (Ridley Scott, 1979; 116 minutes), Back to the Future (robert zemeckis, 1985; 116 minutes), The Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitmann, 1984; 107 minutes) and the goonies (Richard Donner, 1985; 114 minutes), to mention just a few examples that are surely still very present in the memory of readers – went from being exceptions to becoming the norm and ended up setting the new course for the industry.

107 minutes of "The Ghostbusters"and no more were needed (Photo: FilmAffinity)
107 minutes of “Ghostbusters”, and no more was needed (Photo: FilmAffinity)

On the other hand, the attempt to expand the narratives (which, paradoxically, could be seen as an attempt to resemble the series), without actually constituting something entirely new, does present different nuances.

robert mckeein his work The script, indicates the existence of works with more acts than the traditional three. In this sense, he cites Four Weddings and a Funeral (Mike Newell1994), with five acts; Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg1981), with seven, or The cook, the thief, his wife and her lover (Peter Greenaway1989), with eight.

The exception today

However, as has already been pointed out, what in the past was a kind of exception is beginning to become the norm.

Which leads us to the following conclusion: currently, cinema must face several problems. Among these are the changes in the viewer’s consumption habits –which include a decrease in theater attendance–, the primacy of series (more in line with the idea of ​​dynamic domestic consumption), the greater audiovisual offer and the price of tickets to the room –similar to the cost of the monthly subscription to any platform of streaming–.

Andie Mc Dowell and Hugh Grant, in a scene from "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (1994), by Mike Newell (Photo: The Grosby Group)
Andie Mc Dowell and Hugh Grant, in a scene from “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (1994), by Mike Newell (Photo: The Grosby Group)

For all the reasons indicated in the text, the film industry, especially the one oriented to be projected in theaters, seems to have concentrated its offer. Thus, it has promoted films with a large budget and duration, with more subplots and greater spectacularization. All these features seem to justify the price of admission and offer a disincentive against subscribing to a platform streaming or other broadcast channels.

In the case of productions more indiesthe longer duration would serve a desire to explore new narratives, further removed from both television discourses or mainstream Like big productions.

Be that as it may, and while we confirm the drift of the sector, it may be advisable to order the popcorn in XL format if we do not want to run out before the lights in the room are turned on.

* Professor of Audiovisual Communication at the University of Murcia.

Originally posted on The Conversation.

Keep reading

The Conversation

We want to give thanks to the writer of this short article for this incredible web content

Why are movies so long now?

You can find our social media profiles here , as well as additional related pages here.https://bestmovies.debatepost.com/related-pages/