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The LONGEST picture show; SCREEN CHAT; Epic trend is growing.

MODERN cinema is in danger of becoming a real pain in the butt.

For there’s a growing trend for longer movies – and cinema

seats have rarely been noted for their comfort.

This week sees the release of Oliver Stone’s Nixon, yet

another production for which we’re expected to keep our seats

rooted to the cinema’s for a ludicrous three hours. At 192 minutes,

it’s even longer than his monumental 190-minute JFK.

Also on general release just now are Martin Scorsese’s Casino,

Claude Lelouch’s Les Miserables (both 177 mins) and Michael

Mann’s Heat (172 mins).


Sure, long movies are nothing new. As far back as 1927, Abel

Gance’s Napoleon ran to over six hours. And even JFK is over in a

flash compared to 1992’s Heimat, a German epic which, at 25 hours,

32 minutes, is the longest film ever screened.

But, in general, a decent picture used to last no more than 100

minutes. Now it’s a rare film that doesn’t limp into at least

a third hour.

Time was when film-makers had to pack a movie full of spectacle to

justify epic length.

Films like Gone With The Wind (222 mins) kept audiences agog at the

time and gave pretty full value for their money.

But it seems modern ‘t know how to KISS

audiences. Instead of Keeping It Simple, Stupid, they simply keep going

until they run out of film or money.

An explosion of egos – both directors’ and stars’ – has

much to do with this, as they equate length with importance.


The studios appear to have no control over Stone, Scorsese, Kevin

Costner (230-minute “special” edition of Dances With Wolves),

Mel Gibson (Braveheart, 177 mins) and others.

Indulged and pampered, these directors are out of control. Instead

of telling stories clearly and concisely, today’s films ramble.

It’s no surprise our attention does the same.

Soon we’re wondering not what the hero will get up to next but

why they don’t make luminous watch dials any more and why we

didn’t get a bigger carton of popcorn?

Although they say Hollywood is obsessed with money, long movies

make little economic sense. The longer the film, the more expensive it

is both to make and to print copies for cinemas.

On top of that, it is less likely to take as much money as a

successful shorter film. A 90-minute pic can get six showings a day,

compared with just three for a three-hour marathon. Twice the length,

half the revenue.

On top of everything else, mammoth films usually have extremely

inconvenient screening times.

It’s nigh-on impossible to meet up with mates for a drink, see

a three- hour movie and eat in one session – unless you want to meet the

milkman on your way home.

Alfred Hitchcock, one of the wisest people ever to work in

Hollywood, once said: “The length of a film should be directly

related to the endurance of the human bladder.”


Perhaps today’s directors have people to go to the bathroom

for them.

Let’s strike a blow for shorter films. Let’s send a clear

message to Hollywood by voting with our increasingly sore bums to

boycott longer movies.

Let’s tell them we won’t stand for it. Or, rather, we

won’t sit for it.

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