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From “Cleopatra” to “Oppenheimer”: Why are movies getting longer?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

At the 2023 Oscars, it was noted the vast majority of the nominated films were over two hours long and some others were even three hours long, as in the case of “Killers of the flowers moon” and the night’s big winner “Oppenheimer”, which, despite its long running time, had a high number of box office and public acclaim.

The Economist magazine carried out a survey to find out if films are really gaining minutes or even hours in their length. The survey analyzed 100,000 films from 1930 to 2022 and found that films really are getting longer. In 1930, feature films had an average length of 1 hour and 21 minutes, and in 2022, 1 hour and 47 minutes, an increase of 24%. 

The reality is that since Hollywood’s golden age, films have been long, using “Cleopatra” as an example, which was originally 4 hours long and was later cut down. However, in the last century, long movies had an intermission, where the audience went to the bathroom or got more food, while the projectionist prepared the reels for the sequel.

With the advance of digital technology, films are no longer shown in reels, now that films can be shown in one go, the breaks have been cut.

A large part of the movie-going public has been calling for the return of intermissions during screenings, claiming that films that are too long are difficult to concentrate on for hours, given that today’s generations have a major attention deficit. 

On the other hand, the authors of cinematographic works and their producers don’t like the idea of intermissions, as they can break the narrative of the film and the plot must be accepted as it was artistically made.

Illustrious filmmakers such as Christopher Nolan and Martin Scorscese, believe in the art of letting a movie speak for itself no matter how big they are. They are trying to make an immersive experience instead of producing entertainment only.

In Nolan’s words “My most enjoyable movie going experiences have always been going to a movie theater, sitting there and the lights go down and a film comes on the screen that you don’t know everything about, and you don’t know every plot turn and every character movement that’s going to happen.”

Although long films are more difficult to pay attention to and we don’t have a minute to go to the bathroom, every time someone watches it in its entirety at the cinema, they leave with the feeling of having seen a spectacle and thus mark a memorable trip to the cinema.     


The article above was edited by Ana Carolina Micheletti.

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Giovana Fernandes

Casper Libero '27

Aluna de jornalismo da Cásper Líbero, que adora o mundo do entretenimento.