With recent Hollywood movies averaging running times around the two hours and 30 minutes mark, TMW asks "How long does a movie need to be?"
A great movie should leave you wanting more, but that doesn't mean it should necessarily give you more. An audience should give itself over to the artist, not dictate terms to him/her. My all-time favorite movie is John Carpenter's incredible Halloween. For years I had been reading about a longer cut, featuring two extra scenes Carpenter had filmed to accommodate the film's running time on network TV. When the movie had its 25th anniversary DVD release, I finally had the chance to see this longer cut. I watched it once, and it filled my curiosity, but I've never watched it since. If I want to watch Halloween I want to see its best version, the original. More of something you love doesn't necessarily make it better.
There is no ideal movie length. A movie should be as long as it needs to be for the film-maker to adequately convey his story or concepts. Unfortunately, that's not the criteria Hollywood is currently employing. The reason "blockbusters" have become so long is purely commercial. If a movie is 90 minutes, a theater can fit about six screenings a day comfortably into one screen. If a movie is 150 minutes, however, only three or, at a push, four screenings can be accommodated by a single screen. This forces theater owners to book big Hollywood tent-pole films into multiple screens. Wondering why What Maisie Knew didn't play at your local multiplex? It's because the screen it would have taken was given over to accommodate the extended running time of The Lone Ranger. This is a two-fronted victory for Hollywood studios. Not only do they make a bigger cut of box-office takings, but they also eliminate the lower budget, independent competition.
Once Upon a Time in the West is 175 minutes because that's how long Sergio Leone needed to tell that story. The Lone Ranger is 150 minutes because the studio told Gore Verbinski it needed to be that length to fill more screens.
With 3D seemingly on its last legs, Hollywood is increasingly hedging its bets on extended running times. If you suffer from a busy bladder, it's bad news. Butt-achingly long blockbusters are here to stay.
Read the full article by Eric Hillis over at The Movie Waffler