Original entry posted: Thu Apr 24 16:31:50 2008
That Fuzzy Bastard
@ Tue Apr 29 11:15:48 2008 EST
This is something I've wondered about for a long time, and I really don't know what the answer is. My first thought is that it has to do with a shift in power from producers to directors---it was in the 70s that two hours became the standard, rather than the exception. But power shifted back in the 80s, and the movies stayed long, though it is true that 90 minutes is generally regarded as a base length, and a movie that runs over 2 hours is going for either auteurist grandeur (There Will Be Blood) or long, slow, well-lubricated fan-servicing (Lord of Harry Potter).
Another thought has to do with how movies are shown. Once upon a time, double features were the standard, and studios cranked out hundreds of movies to meet the demand of thousands of independent theaters, each with their own customer base (if you compare how many movies a studio made in any year of the 50s to how many they made in a given year of the 90s, the difference is pretty staggering). So movies were generally short---two 75 minute movies was a common double-feature length, adding up to about the length of one of today's blockbusters.
As the double-feature died, theater chains consolidated, and ticket prices went up, studios had to make people feel like going to the movies was still worth their money. So they had to provide the same amount of entertainment in one movie that people used to get in two. So you get more action, more stars, and most of all, more movie. And thus does 2 hours become standard, which is still a little less runtime than you used to get for one double-feature ticket price.
@ Tue Apr 29 11:19:50 2008 EST
Good point about double features. I hadn't even thought about that part of the process...