Stat-tastic Entry 3: Movie Length

Somewhat Ironically, today’s segment on movie length will be the shortest of the entire Stat-tastic series.

This was me by the end of Movie 43

This was me by the end of Movie 43

Between Les Miserables, Django Unchained, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, This is 40 and more over the 4th quarter of 2012, I began to start feeling that movies have really been starting to get really, REALLY long.  I believe I speak for most people when I say that the most comfortable run time for a movie is somewhere between 90 and 120 minutes.  That range usually gives average-to-good level movies enough time to fit in a decent story, while still maintaining a brisk enough pace to keep even the mildly interested in their seats.  Once a movie starts creeping above the two hour mark though, it forces its audience to look at every single scene and ask themselves “Did that really need to be there?”.

Exposition-rising action-climax-resolution?  Why not Climax-Climax-Climax-CLIMAX!!!!

Exposition-rising action-climax-resolution? Why not Climax-Climax-Climax-CLIMAX!!!!

Occasionally, a movie can get through run times of above the 120 and 150 minute levels without boring the audience into criticism.  Usually, the movies that do this best are Sci-Fi/Action films that use the first two hours to build up to an explosive climactic battle (I.e. The Avengers, Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty).  When it comes to other genres though, more often than not a run time of upwards of 150 minutes leaves at least a couple scenes feeling like they could have been easily left for the DVD extended cut (i.e. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Lincoln, Les Miserables).  There are some movies, however, that venture beyond the two hour mark without any business doing so.  In these cases, an overly long run time can nearly ruin a film that would have been at least bearable had it been a bit shorter (i.e. Cloud Atlas, This is 40).

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

While I don’t quite have enough time in the day to compare data from this year to previous years in terms of average time, here are some of the bullet points when it comes to how long movies made you sit in theaters during 2012.

The average length of a movie released in 2012 was 108 minutes, aka 1 hour 48 minutes.  Twenty films came in shorter than 90 minutes, while thirty films came in longer than two hours.

Here are your 10 Longest films of 2012.  Made up of four Action movies, three Sci-Fi, two Drama and one Musical, a note should be made of how critically and (mostly) financially successful these films were, despite their run time.  The average IMDb rating for these ten was 8.1, while the average Rotten Tomatoes score was 83%.  More impressively though, the average gross of the ten was just below $270 million.  In fact, the only one which did not exceed its production budget by a significant amount was Cloud Atlas, which ranks among the biggest financial busts of 2012.

  1. Cloud Atlas – 172 minutes
  2. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – 169 minutes
  3. Django Unchained – 165 minutes
  4. The Dark Knight Rises – 165 minutes
  5. Les Miserables – 158 minutes
  6. Zero Dark Thirty – 157 minutes
  7. Lincoln – 150 minutes
  8. The Avengers – 143 minutes
  9. Skyfall – 143 minutes
  10. The Hunger Games – 142 minutes
I'm sorry, you want me to make my movies shorter?  How adorable that you think your opinion matters!

I’m sorry, you want me to make my movies shorter? How adorable that you think your opinion matters!

The takeaway here?  The more promise a film has of being profitable, the more license a director has to make a film his/her own way.  Usually, that way means fitting as much material in as possible, leading to a much longer run time.  Because of this, Directors with proven ability to make great, profitable films like Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Christopher Nolan get to make their movies as long as they goddamn well please.  While this does lead to some gripes about indulgent film making from critics, it also seems to have absolutely no negative effect on a film’s box office potential.

Now we come to the short but (occasionally) sweet.  Here are the 10 shortest films of the year.  Made up of five Horrors, two Comedies, one Documentary, one Drama and one Sci-Fi, there is a very noticeable difference from the Longest 10 of 2012 above in respects to the critical and financial success of these films.  The average IMDb rating for the ten was 5.6, the average Rotten Tomatoes score was 38%, and the average domestic gross was $33.5 million.

  1. Chimpanzee – 78 minutes
  2. The Apparition – 82 minutes
  3. The Collection – 82 minutes
  4. The Devil Inside – 83 minutes
  5. Piranha 3DD – 83 minutes
  6. The Dictator – 83 minutes
  7. Gone – 84 minutes
  8. Chronicle – 84 minutes
  9. The Campaign – 85 minutes
  10. Chernobyl Diaries – 86 minutes
This bombed and The Devil Inside made 50x more than its budget. wtf, general public?

This bombed and The Devil Inside made 50x more than its budget. Wtf, general public?

Takeaways here?  It is very easy and for the most part very cheap to make a terrible movie, and that’s why studio’s usually exert the minimum amount of effort on projects that people already expect to be terrible (i.e. most of the horror genre).  Because of this, there’s just not a lot of material that people want to fit in to films like this, and the run time ends up being on the shorter end.  The main exception here is Chronicle, which clocked in at a short 84 minutes but managed to shine out above its found-footage brothers in terms of financial success and overall awesomeness.  Bottom line, most film makers who have a lot to offer will try to do so in longer run times.

Now I’ll turn it over to all of you.  What movie(s) in 2012 felt the longest, and did you feel that they could have been shortened at all without sacrificing quality?

As one last bonus, here’s a list of the longest movies ever released in the history of American Cinema

About r361n4

I'm a student at the University of Washington Majoring Business. I've always loved movies and my goal is to work on the financial side of the film industry. Until then though, I figure I'll spare my friends from my opinions and shout them from a digital mountaintop for anyone who's interested. After all, if a tree falls in a forest and nobody blogs about it, does it really happen?
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8 Responses to Stat-tastic Entry 3: Movie Length

  1. “This bombed and The Devil Inside made 50x more than its budget. Wtf, general public?” Makes me sick!

    I think films with longer run times get more audience because they feel they get more bang for their buck, I’d pay £7 for an epic with a smile on my face but I’d wait till DVD for an 80 minute cheap fest 😀

    • r361n4 says:

      That makes sense up to a certain level, but there is a certain point of diminishing returns in a movie’s length. That being said, I’d totally rather watch 2.5 hours of Nolan or Tarantino than 90 minutes of anyone else

  2. Mark Hobin says:

    The truth of the matter is, if you like the film, even a long film doesn’t feel so bad. I was ok with the length of The Dark Knight Rises and Les Misérables. I wasn’t squirming in my seat like I was with Django Unchained (which I still enjoyed) or Cloud Atlas (which I absolutely detested).

    This is a very well researched entry. Such a pleasure to read. I haven’t seen anyone else do this and it’s such a fitting entry given how much longer movies were in 2012. Great job!!

  3. Very interesting post. I’ve seen 9 out of the 10 longest 2012 movies. The longest, Cloud Atlas, didn’t feel that long, as I was enjoying it somewhat, but Avengers and The Hobbit were pain and torture, respectively. Didn’t really mind the runtimes of TDKR, Skyfall, THG, or ZDT. Lincoln and Django felt a bit too long but it wasn’t that bad.

    • r361n4 says:

      I can’t believe that you didn’t mind Cloud Atlas but couldn’t stand The Avengers, but we all get our controversial loves/hates 🙂 You haven’t seen Les Mis?

      • LOL, yes, we all have our controversial dislikes. I hated The Hobbit and I really didn’t like The Avengers. Cloud Atlas was meh. Great and terrible at the same time, but at least I was somewhat entertained. Haven’t seen Les Mis yet, no. Will be doing that soon, though. Opens here in a week and a half.

      • r361n4 says:

        Interested to hear what you think of it, it definitely started feeling a bit long near the end for me but some people disagree

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