Are Films Getting Longer?

A lengthy five months passed between my last two cinema visits. Thanks to the copious amounts of work my university degree had thrown at me, I had to opt for more flexible hobbies like reading and watching films and series on streaming services. However, once I had finally returned to the movie theatre-going experience, as forced upon me by my brother, I came out thinking: Jesus, have films gotten longer or have I just not been to the cinema in ages?

The answer to both of those questions is yes. I obviously have forgotten what it’s like to go to a cinema but also films are definitely being made with longer runtimes.  With the capitalist idea of ‘time is money’ that has been ingrained into our society, it is surprising that so many people would choose to visit the cinema for two or even three-plus hours. Who has the time to forge out that much time out of their busy schedule and this isn’t accounting for the time spent travelling to the cinema and the length of relentless advertisements played before? 

Are we possibly looking for escapism? Cinemas are one of the only places where you have to fully switch off from the world around you and it is even frowned upon for you to use your phone whilst there. The longer the film, the more time we get to spend away from our real-life issues. And with the new trend of having post-credits scenes (thanks Marvel) is forcing us to spend even more time in the cinema and away from our desks. Enjoying a movie with friends or by yourself may be one of the healthiest hobbies to take time away from the stressful world around us. 

However, rather than satisfying the masses’ need to escape from reality, filmmakers may be reaching for future cult status. According to research carried out by Jo Moses, films follow a cyclical pattern of using characteristics of classics from 20-30 years ago. The longest film in the current cycle is predicted to be around 228 minutes long and will be released in 2028. Directors are scrounging at the chance to go back to the splendour of old movies. Even during the periods of the shortest films being made, all of the so-called classics still have extremely long runtimes. Epics need to be complex, long runtimes allow for this level of developed storytelling without boring the audience. 

It has also been noted that this grabbing at cult classic status is being used to draw our attention away from streaming services. With Netflix dipping its toes into the creation of Oscar nomination worthy movies, directors that feel threatened by the ease of watching movies at home need a reason to draw more people to the cinema. The prestigious cult classic status of long-running films may be the answer to their problems. For many young adults, it is essential to be up to date with the latest culture and to be able to debate over whether this certain film deserved a nomination over another, forcing us to fill seats in cinemas for several hours at a time.

Overall, it can be seen that films are getting longer. The possible reasons for this move towards achingly long movies range from the obsession with cult status to our newfound love for escapism. Does this trend allow for the proper development of complex movies or is it just a huge waste of time?

Image courtesy of Jake Hills.

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