Why are the majority of movies around 90-120 min?

spinnerlys

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Sep 7, 2008
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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,[1] the American Film Institute,[2] and the British Film Institute[3] all define a feature as a film with a running time of 40 minutes or longer. The Centre National de la Cinématographie in France defines it as a 35 mm film which is longer than 1,600 metres, which comes out to exactly 58 minutes and 29 seconds for sound films, and the Screen Actors Guild gives a minimum running time of 80 minutes.[4] Today, a feature film is usually between 80 and 210 minutes[citation needed]; a children's film is usually between 60 and 120 minutes[citation needed]. An anthology film is a fixed sequence of short subjects with a common theme, combined into a feature film.

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feature_film

I think it's a good length to not stress the audience's patience, as I have seen many films that go for 180 minutes and more and had to have a break in between.

Also the longer the film, the more it usually costs.
 

heehee

macrumors 68020
Jul 31, 2006
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I don't know why, but I wouldn't like to be sitting there for over 2 hours unless the movie is really well made. Half of the movies I see right now I want it to be shorter.
 

notjustjay

macrumors 603
Sep 19, 2003
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Canada, eh?
There must be some sweet spot that people have found by experimenting over the years.

Half an hour or one hour is seen as a typical running time of a TV show. To have a movie run for not much longer than that would make it feel less like a movie and more like a TV special.

The fact that one roll of 35mm film is about an hour of running time (as per the above post) suggests that most films would stick to two hours of running time -- beyond that, you have to pay for that third roll.

The longer the movie, the fewer times you can show it in an evening, and the fewer people can see it, meaning fewer ticket sales.

There's only so long I can sit there drinking from a huge cup of pop before I need to take a break :D
 

Cave Man

macrumors 604
Peter Jackson wanted to release the LotR movies in their full lengths, but the studio overruled him because it would cut down by one or two the number of showings in a day. In other words, it's mostly about money.

The fact that one roll of 35mm film is about an hour of running time (as per the above post) suggests that most films would stick to two hours of running time -- beyond that, you have to pay for that third roll.
Far more film is discarded than used. Part of the editing process.
 

iOrlando

macrumors 68000
Jul 20, 2008
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i tend to love movies that are about 2 hours to 2 hours and 30 minutes (300 and Transformers 2 are prime examples, respectively)
 

jaw04005

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Aug 19, 2003
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It’s seems to be the sweet spot for the average movie goer attention span/comfortableness.

Personally, I was miserable during the last hour of all three Lord of the Rings films despite their epic quality, and enjoyed them much more at home. Movies more than 2 hours in length should have a mandatory intermission. :)
 

Surely

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Oct 27, 2007
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Peter Jackson wanted to release the LotR movies in their full lengths, but the studio overruled him because it would cut down by one or two the number of showings in a day. In other words, it's mostly about money.
There must be some sweet spot that people have found by experimenting over the years.

Half an hour or one hour is seen as a typical running time of a TV show. To have a movie run for not much longer than that would make it feel less like a movie and more like a TV special.

The longer the movie, the fewer times you can show it in an evening, and the fewer people can see it, meaning fewer ticket sales.
:D
I think it's a combination of these two ideas.

They want to make sure that they are providing a product that the audience will feel was worth the $10-14. It has to be longer than something you can watch at home for free.

They want to be able to show the movie as many times as they can in a day.

It's a combination of perceived value on the audience's part, and being able to run it as many times a day as possible.
 

furcalchick

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Dec 19, 2006
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There must be some sweet spot that people have found by experimenting over the years.

Half an hour or one hour is seen as a typical running time of a TV show. To have a movie run for not much longer than that would make it feel less like a movie and more like a TV special.
in japan, quite a few anime movies (usually ones with a running tv series) are under an hour in length and hit the theaters (they are usually part of a double or triple feature though). the thing is that in many cases, you don't have to know too much about the series to follow the movie, but it helps. i think most of the digimon movies were around 30-35 minutes in length for example.
 

Thomas Veil

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Feb 14, 2004
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Length alone isn't it. I've seen some TV-movies like "The Night Stalker" which run 75 minutes uninterrupted, yet they feel like a movie, not like a TV show. And I've seen some 2 hr., 30 minute movies that felt like a multi-night miniseries. :(

I find this intriguing as a movie is simply a story yet they all for the most part seem to be the same length

Any reason for this?
Two hours is about as long as some people can go without worrying that their kids are getting into the chocolate milk. :D
 

Melrose

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Dec 12, 2007
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The only movie that was worth two hours was UFH, and that was closer to 90 mins anyway.

Unless it's an epic, going near two hours is just waaaaay too flippin' long. Peter Jackson's King Kong is a case in point - it was an incredibly well made film, but could have been condensed into an even better 100 minute adventure.
 

jaw04005

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Unless it's an epic, going near two hours is just waaaaay too flippin' long. Peter Jackon's King Kong is a case in point - it was an incredibly well made film, but could have been condensed into an even better 100 minute adventure.
Perfect example. Peter Jackson really likes long movies. Maybe he should try the real theater experience (small uncomfortable seats, people packed in all around you, gum on your armrest, people talking during the film, cell phones lighting up, etc) when watching his own films instead of the cushy private screenings he likely enjoys them in. :D
 

dejo

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Sep 2, 2004
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The fact that one roll of 35mm film is about an hour of running time (as per the above post) suggests that most films would stick to two hours of running time -- beyond that, you have to pay for that third roll.
Actually a reel of film as delivered to a cinema is usually about 14-20 minutes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cue_mark

EDIT: P.S. Apologies to all those who now start noticing cue marks while at the theater. I never had until I learned about them. Now I see them all the time.
 

Surely

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Oct 27, 2007
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Actually a reel of film as delivered to a cinema is usually about 14-20 minutes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cue_mark

EDIT: P.S. Apologies to all those who now start noticing cue marks while at the theater. I never had until I learned about them. Now I see them all the time.
Yeah, cue marks/cigarette burns were pointed out in the movie Fight Club. Ever since I saw that movie, I can't not see them.
 

SactoGuy18

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Sep 11, 2006
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Sacramento, CA USA
If I remember correctly, movies are about 90-120 minutes long due to this issue: each 35 mm standard reel of film delivered to a theater holds about 20 minutes of movie, and that's why a two hour movie needs six reels of film, hence the standardization on a movie being more or less around two hours long.

But with digital projection, movies are now delivered on hard drives, and given how cheap hard drives are nowadays you could put a 2000-line resolution two-hour digital movie on a single one terabyte hard drive that uses the Ultra SCSI 320 interface for the fastest performance. (It's a lot cheaper to ship a single hard drive than to ship six 35-pound reels of film for that two hour movie.)
 

Counterfit

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Aug 20, 2003
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The only movie that was worth two hours was UFH, and that was closer to 90 mins anyway.

Unless it's an epic, going near two hours is just waaaaay too flippin' long. Peter Jackon's King Kong is a case in point - it was an incredibly well made film, but could have been condensed into an even better 100 minute adventure.
Pfff, I watched Gettysburg in theaters when I was about 8. 262 minutes (plus intermission).
 

irmongoose

macrumors 68030
It's just worked out that way as a sweet spot, as someone said earlier. Most Hollywood movies go by the traditional Three Act story structure, which can further be broken down into a total of eight sequences (according to a school of thought developed by a professor at USC). Each sequence is 10 to 15 minutes. They are as follows:

Act 1
1. The "Hook" and exposition.
2. Sets up main tension and central dramatic question.
3. Main character makes first attempt at solving problem.
4. Failure, rising hope. First culmination.

Act 2
5. Main character works on new complication that arises out of first culmination.
6. Climax - main character faces greatest fear.

Act 3
7. Apparent or actual resolution of main tension causes new tension, character works towards solving this.
8. Story fully resolved.

Therefore, following the basic method of storytelling developed and taught by Hollywood screenwriters over the years, 90-120 pages (or minutes) has become the norm. It is the tried and true length that will effectively tell a story.

This is not to say that every movie follows this structure. Far from it. But it does act as a guide to many screenwriters, almost like a starting point, and many films do end up being made that follow this structure 'to a T'. For example, if you analyze Star Wars: A New Hope, you can break it down exactly into eight 10-15 minute sequences. It's so smooth, it's like cutting pie.

So, after all that, I guess the short answer would be - it's just the sweet spot.



irmongoose
 

Rapmastac1

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Aug 5, 2006
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The same reason for the screen size as well. It took a long time to get to the point where widescreen was the prime choice. I just hate when you get used to something and it changes (16x9 is changing to something else pretty soon). Still irks me that movies aren't shot in 16x9 either, I HATE black bars. To think one of the reasons I got my HDTV was to get rid of black bars, but I still have the damned things!

I like my movies around that length as well, too long and it's pushing it, I get bored after a while and want to get up and move around. There was a War Movie that was released about 8 years ago (can't recall the name), but I think it was around 4 to 6 hours long. All I remember is it came out on 5 VHS tapes (I think...). My friend has it, I'll have to ask him when he wakes up.
 

c-Row

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Jan 10, 2006
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There must be some sweet spot that people have found by experimenting over the years.

Half an hour or one hour is seen as a typical running time of a TV show.
I guess that's probably because of the show block planning structure of TV station's program, rather than some kind of experimenting.
 
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