The Death of the 90 Minute Movie?

I frequently find myself having to justify a movie’s run time these days. If I had a pound for every time I said “oh but it needed to be that long to fit everything in”, or, “the run time really didn’t bother me as the film was so great”, I’d probably be rich by now. Or I’d at least be able to afford several large popcorn and Cokes at your average multiplex!

For the casual cinema goer these days, movies are getting noticeably longer, and this isn’t necessarily a good thing. I did a double bill of films recently with a friend, seeing How to be Single (110 mins) and Deadpool (108 mins) in one evening, and she commented how nice it was to see a film that was a “normal” length. Despite the fact both of these did exceed the magical 90 minute, it was a remark that compared to some films on at the moment, these two were very short in comparison. A lot of films nowadays seem to push the 120 minute mark, but that magical 90 minutes is still considered the “normal” run time. However it is a normality which is becoming rarer and rarer.

Where Deadpool broke the mould for superhero movies in many ways, perhaps the most noticeable for me was just how short it was comparatively. I can’t honestly remember the last superhero movie I saw that was less than 2 hours long, and I’ll be honest it was a refreshing change. However 2 hour superhero movies have become the norm for me, and in my review I found myself commenting that I could’ve done with another 15-20 minutes. But did I need more? No, not really. I loved the film, the need for more was mainly because I enjoyed the film so much that I was greedy and wanted more. In hindsight, the film was actually the perfect length for the type of film it was. Deadpool is for the most part a comedy, and comedies are classically around the 90-100 minute mark, so it worked perfectly in that sense.

It was recently announced that the run time of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a massive 151 minutes long (that’s 2 hours and 31 minutes), 13 minutes shy of being the longest superhero movie (The Dark Knight Rises takes that prize!). Whilst no judgement can be made about this film yet, I imagine it’s making the more casual cinema goers already start dreading the numb bums they might have to endure, and wondering when to take that all important tactical toilet break. Long films are not for everyone, and I’m sure fans will lap up all 151 minutes, but it equally will turn some people off.

Now run time isn’t something that bothers me; as long as I know beforehand, I can sit through a 3 hour film with no problems. In fact, before seeing any film I like to check out the run time so I can meticulously plan the rest of my social time around my cinema trips. However I know it is something that bothers a lot of people, to the point where they might not want to see a film simply because of its run time.

I mentioned earlier that comedies are usually around the 90-100 minute mark, but even that seems to be changing. Trainwreck clocked in at 129 minutes, and Sisters came in at just shy of the 2 hour mark. For a genre which was always around the 90 minute mark, filmmakers are now frequently pushing the boundaries as far as they can, sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Long movies are not a new thing; The Godfather was 2 minutes shy of the 180 minute mark, Titanic was a staggering 210 minutes long, Avatar was 162 minutes, all the Lord of the Rings films were pushing 180 minutes and more. In fact, as one of my esteemed Twitter followers (Thank you @NotQuiteCool) pointed out, there was a 194 minute silent film called Intolerance in 1916! Kudos to anyone who sits through this, watching the 100 minutes of The Artist was more than enough for me!

Now just to clear some things up, I am not against long movies, and I think they certainly have their place, but I also believe that there are not enough 90 minute movies out there. There needs to be a bit of balance, and the problem for me is the lack of distinction now between genres and that the lines are becoming increasingly blurred. 90 minutes for a romantic comedy and 120 minutes plus for a blockbuster used to be commonplace, but this seems to be more and more interchangeable. Movies have to cater to such a wide audience now, and in my opinion there isn’t enough variety in terms of movie run times and I think this is what is turning cinema goers off.

Did Interstellar or The Wolf of Wall Street really need to be 3 hours long? Will Quentin Tarantino eventually push the envelope so far that he ends up making a 4 hour movie? All good questions, but I want to know what you think! Do you think we’re seeing the death of the 90 minute movie for good? Let me know in the comments below! 

PS: Credit to my wonderful friends Jake and Lauren whose conversations inspired this blog 🙂

10 thoughts on “The Death of the 90 Minute Movie?

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  1. Well in India it seems like the 90 minute movie might finally become fashionable. Our movies have come from being 3-4 hours long to finally stopping at just over 2 hours. I’m hoping the 90 minute movie comes here.
    But I did think interstellar could have a nice 1/3 chopped out of it and still be great. I started playing a game in my phone! (Thank god j was sitting way behind)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting! 3-4 hours does take some endurance! I think the norm is shifting now to 2 hours but there’s still the need for shorter movies. I personally didn’t mind the runtime of Interstellar, but I know plenty of people who thought it was way too long!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. How long is Superman vs Batman? How will I survive without going to to the toilet? *Sobs*

    I actually watched Grimsby today and it was 87 minutes long I believe. Perfect length for the film, anymore would have been too much.

    I think two hours is going to be the norm. I really hope they don’t push them much longer than that, not just for the sake of my bladder, but because I’d get worn out from such lengths.

    Great post! \o/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with how you feel.

    One of these days, 90 minutes will be the norm for two reasons. Firstly, it will give people an excuse to have more sequels (since Hollywood is clearly running out of material outside of the TV format). Secondly, the cinema industry is slowly losing against NetFlix and TV in general because of the inconvenience of having to travel.

    The second reason especially because a point was made in Tom Shone’s “Blockbuster” (a 2004 book) about films being more successful in the seventies and eighties (in terms of cost to income ratio) due to less forms of entertainment competing for people’s attention.

    As a storyteller, my belief is that if you wish that a film was longer then it was probably not properly paced. 90 minutes divided by six acts = segments consisting of 15 minutes. Abiding by this structure would make it easier for film-makers to pass Kermode’s six laughs test. Roger Corman abided by it, so today’s film-makers should abide by it more easily.

    Liked by 1 person

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