Tuesday, May 17

Three hours of your life watching Batman: how long movies have definitely devoured the box office

Apparently (lo dice IMDB) the footage of the new Batman movie, directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz and Colin Farrell, will be 2 hours and 55 minutes. Practically three hours of Bat Man, which raises the usual bar that we have all ended up assuming as usual for this type of productiontwo and a half hours. But, is it a generalized feeling or are they exceptions?

We can all remember movies from years ago with mammoth lengths. ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ lasted practically three hours. ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ lasted 3 hours and 48 minutes. ‘Fanny and Alexander’ lasted 5 hours and 12 minutes. And that’s without going into films that already border on the experimental like ‘Sátántangó’ (7 hours and 19 minutes) or ‘The Innocence’, 21 hours long.

However, in recent years there is perhaps the perception, how did i count Sarah Atkinson, professor of audiovisual media, to ‘The Guardian’, that this footage, higher than the average of what we remember from previous years, has been established as the norm. His first conclusion is that we are before a mixture that there are more mainstream films that transgress the limits previously considered “normal” and that it is a mere sensation. Data scientist Przemysław Jarząbek’s study on the subject seemed to corroborate this.

With the data in hand

When he did the math, Jarząbek delved into the durations of almost a million films, from the very origins of cinema until the moment the study was carried out, 2018. After subjecting the films to multiple variables and doing an analysis conscientious that can be read on their website, the graphs showed a very unspectacular picture: there are no noticeable differences in length trends between 20th-century and more recent films.

Small jumps upwards are detected between the thirties and forties, and then another slight one from the sixties, but they are minimal and are due to well-studied changes in the history of cinema. On the one hand, the arrival of certain epic cinema fashions and of longer duration and on the other, the appearance of a cinema not so constrained to the narrative codes of Hollywood, which compartmentalized the durations of films for commercial and exhibition purposes. However, they are very small variations, and most importantly: since the sixties there are hardly any changes until now.

As of 2018 we have new data, new premieres and new durations but they do not offer great changes either: the years of the pandemic have hardly given us great theatrical releases, and Except for exceptions such as ‘No time to die’ (2 hours 43 minutes), few exceed the two and a half hours more or less standardized for blockbusters, which have arrived even in smaller numbers than what we saw in years prior to the pandemic. Not even a film sold as epic, such as ‘Dune’, has left those margins.

There are a few exceptions, and they’re significant: “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” clocks in at four hours, and Scorsese’s “The Irishman” clocks in at 3 hours and 29 minutes. But aside from the first being a director’s cut, and therefore, a certain tipper philosophy is understood and that its value lies in the accumulation of scenes not seen before, both are films of a mixed nature, for their exhibition in theaters, but above all, in streaming, and therefore, more lax rules apply to them, understood by an audience accustomed to marathons of several hours of series.

Some possible explanations

if we go in in the greatest blockbusters of all time, we will see that the top ten are mostly from the 21st century. Only ‘Titanic’, in position 3, escapes from that classification, and it will be necessary to reach ‘The Lion King’, in position 37, to find another 20th century film on this list. Among all these films, the durations are usually high:

  • 1 Avatar: 2h 42m
  • 2 Avengers: Endgame: 3h 1m
  • 3    Titanic: 3h 14m
  • 4 Star Wars: The Force Awakens: 2h 18m
  • 5 Avengers: Infinity War: 2h 29m
  • 6    Spider-Man: No Way Home: 2h 28m
  • 7    Jurassic World: 2h 4m
  • 8 The Lion King (2019): 1h 58m
  • 9 The Avengers: 2h 23m
  • 10    Fast & Furious 7: 2h 17m

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That is to say, two circumstances are added: the films mainstream The recent ones have been absolutely extraordinarily successful, and the new codes of the blockbuster they make them move around two and a half hours of footage, something more than what successful movies used to have at the end of the 20th century. That is to say, It’s not so much that movies are longer now, but that the movies that get more attention from the media and the public are.

And why does that happen? Answering the question of why successful movies are successful would certainly require a deeper study, but Atkinson hints: the film industry needs, because of the steamroller of the streaming, let’s go back to theaters, and long durations are also marketing: “It’s all part of an incentive for people to go and pay a ticket, something they won’t do unless it’s for something special: a big, epic movie. Just look at the Marvel franchise: almost all of them are over two hours”.