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by Andrei Severny
November 4, 2013 9:54 AM
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Why We Must Free Film From Running Time Prejudice

The 120 minute trap of the existing distribution models

Even if your creation gets this far in the selection process, the next deadly challenge is to find a distributor. The unwritten rule for feature films is to make it as close to 120 minutes as possible. Even established filmmakers give in to the pressure.

Let us not be deceived -- there is no objective evidence that 120 minutes is the best running time for the viewer’s experience. The reason is an old theatrical marketing habit, a compromise between the audience getting their money’s worth and maximizing the number of screenings per day.

The myth of the shortening attention span

For decades people have been talking about the changing appetites of viewers towards videos of cute cats and flipping channels in search of the next wacko experience. Kevin Spacey brilliantly challenged this notion in his recent speech at the Edinburgh Television Festival: "We can make no assumptions about what viewers want or how they want to experience things. We must observe, adapt, and try new things to discover appetites we didn't know were there."

In today's competitive environment, films of unconventional length simply get ignored.

The irrelevance of shooting format and running time

Advancements in technology give us a chance to break free from all of the unnecessary bureaucratic limitations. Digital cinema has brought democracy to the industry. We have nearly stopped distinguishing films by whether they are shot on high-end Panavision 35mm film or a cheap prosumer camera.

With internet streaming we are no longer restricted by the length of reels, tapes, DVDs or preset air time. Festivals and distributors should revisit their policies of acceptable film duration. Theater programmers may consider running original sets of selected films of various lengths --  a successful practice which existed in the 1930s - 1950s.

Let us set cinema free from marketing limitations and prejudice. The audience does not discriminate based on the film length. It is not the distributor who should dictate the running time, but the very thing cinema is built on -- the RHYTHM.

Read the entire story here.


  • Nancy Nigrosh | November 4, 2013 12:48 PMReply

    it's exciting to imagine the future of entertainment that has a degree of unpredictability when it comes to mainstream culture...The Clock is a perfect example, well attended and global.

  • Mac | November 4, 2013 10:28 AMReply

    I'm all for longer movies, but you will have to lift the ban on texting because, well, you know...

  • Mac | November 4, 2013 10:27 AMReply

    As if length was an aim in itself.

  • mac | November 4, 2013 10:06 AMReply

    What America needs is a vital cinema. They can't even manage an hour and half, and this person wants more 7 hour films?

  • Andrei Severny | November 4, 2013 1:25 PM

    Hi Mac! Thanks for your comments, but it looks like you were texting while reading my article. I call to stop discriminating films of unconventional running time both short and long. Audience will love a well made film from a 1 min short to 62-hour long Breaking Bad. Forget about distinction between TV and cinema - most films will end up being seen via internet fitting any viewing habits.