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.

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