It’s going to be epic: film fans set for numb bums as running times go up

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Blockbuster Christmas releases clock in at 140 minutes and more

Cinemagoers heading to their local multiplex this Christmas won’t be able to complain about being short-changed: some of the biggest films of the season are almost three hours long.

Analysis by The Independent has shown the current crop of blockbusters set to hit cinemas have average running times of over two and a half hours with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Les Miserables leading the charge.

Some critics have stated these longer films are beginning to turn cinemagoers off, with an article bemoaning the phenomenon appearing in the industry bible Variety last week under the headline: “Crop of lengthy pix test audiences’ patience”.

Yet it appears that running time has little drag at the box office with the average minutes of the most popular films in the UK steadily increasing over the past three decades.

Les Miserables, director Tom Hooper’s first film since The King’s Speech, is due to come out later this month with a running time of 160 minutes. The Hobbit, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, Lincoln directed by Steven Spielberg, and Zero Dark Thirty chronicling the hunt for Osama bin Laden are all set to bust through the 140 minute mark. Cloud Atlas, the adaptation of the acclaimed David Mitchell novel, hits a whopping 173 minutes. Kaleem Aftab, a film correspondent for The Independent, said: “The prestige movies, the Oscar hopefuls and the big adaptations of books and musicals do tend to go on longer.”

Experts suggest a series of reasons why studios are not afraid to make high-profile films longer from digital technology, to audience expectation and the power of directors.

Damon Wise, contributing editor for Empire, said: “There isn’t really a single explanation, it involves all sorts of factors. It could be a response to giving value for money, the cinema is pretty expensive now, and the filmmaker appears to be holding the reins again.”

He continued: “The more I think about it, the more I think it’s a symptom of going digital.” The cheaper process allows directors to shoot more, while it is easier to put cuts back in than it was for those cutting with film.

Analyst Ben Carlson said last week that “a movie’s length can amplify negative feelings”. Yet, in the UK, cinemagoers have no problem with the extra minutes, with the average time of the most successful films going up in recent years.

The top 10 grossing films so far at the UK box office this year have an average running time of 125.5 minutes, similar to 2010 and 2009. This marks a 16 per cent rise from than three decades earlier.

While there are aberrations – in 2002 the average run time was 139 minutes, skewed by two whopping Lord of the Rings films – there has been an upward curve in the average times for the biggest grossing box office movies. This year, among the top three movies, Skyfall and Avengers Assemble, are 143 minutes each, while The Dark Knight Rises outstrips them to hit 165.

Blockbusters have increased in length as studios, who have put hundreds of millions into them, “want to give people bang for their buck,” Mr Aftab added. Transformers: Dark of the Moon, a run-of-the-mill blockbuster about robots released last year, was 157 minutes long.

The first The Lord of the Rings film was one of the first to make the three-hour running time part of the sell. “There is an expectation of length for adaptations like that especially from hardcore fans,” Mr Aftab said. The Hunger Games also clocked in at 142 minutes.

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk