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Moana Thompson comments:


> I can't be completely scientific in terms of a statistical inquiry as to
> percentages of length increases, but there certainly has been a trend in
> terms of 3 hour lengths for blockbusters in the last few years, and even in
> 3 recent films I saw--Black Hawk Down, In the Bedroom and Gosford Park, all
> of which I believe were 2 hours 20 minutes (and which varied according to
> genre, budget and "prestige  value").  In terms of what accounts for
> it--since at least the seventies, and accelerating in the eighties and
> nineties, the big-budget, high production value blockbuster (often a special
> effects-laden, science fiction film) has driven the marketing  and economic
> strategies of Hollywood.  Gladiator was a new innovation, in terms of a
> reprise of the old blockbuster genre of the fifties--the Roman epic.  Long
> films offer spectacle, and epic scale  (think back to the Godfather cycle)
> and are marketed as 'special-event pictures' thus justifying their often
> unwieldy narrative scale.  The nuances of  very recent contemporary
> increases are yet unclear, and remain to be researched, but compared to the
> Classical Hollywood period (1929-1960) there is a definite change from the
> previously standard 90 minute feature American film.

I don't have specific citations, but there have been articles over the
last couple of decades about the trend in the 1980s-1990s(?) toward
films that could conveniently fit into 2-hour blocks, both to maximize
multiplex scheduling (and concession sales) and to fit 2-hour blocks
for network broadcast with commercial breaks.  I'd suspect that
VARIETY and other trade publications, as well as some journalistic
sources, might comment on the counter-trend (which, if it is not an
abberation, I'd suspect of being fueled by the new prominence of cable
and satellite, as well as of DVDs).

Don Larsson

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Donald F. Larsson, English Department, AH 230
Minnesota State University
Mankato, MN  56001

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