Do the long running times of movies cause an eventual lack of interest from the audience? A study conducted by the Business Insider in 2012 concluded the average length of a Hollywood blockbuster movie is around 130 minutes. The number was determined by the average running time of the top ten grossing movies of 2012. Fast forward three years later, using the same process of data analysis, and the average length of a movie released in 2015 remains around the 125-minute mark.
The question of whether a movie is too long is subjective in nature. There is no objective set of scientific parameters established within the collective consciousness of the audience validating some audience members’ beliefs that a movie is too long. However, the use of scientific studies concerning the average attention span of a human being can dilute the subjective nature of defining if a movie is too long.
According to Microsoft Corporation, the average attention span of a human being is around eight seconds. If the goal of the filmmaker is entertaining audience members for 130 minutes, the movie itself must maintain the interest of the audience in eight-second intervals. Multiply 130 minutes of running time for a movie by 60 seconds, then divide that number by eight seconds, the average attention span of a human being, and the result is 975. That’s roughly 975 moments in which the filmmaker is responsible for entertaining audience members and maintaining the audience’s interest in his movie.
The rule of thumb for a movie script is one page of a screenplay equals one minute of actual screen time within the movie. Working with this formula, a movie script must contain at least 7.5 moments of engaging, attention-retaining entertainment per page. It’s imperative the filmmaker stimulates the audiences’ senses for the entire duration of the movie. If the audience mentally disengages in the story and becomes bored with the movie, they will start thinking that the movie is way too long.
One of the factors audiences perceive in determining whether a movie is too long is the plot of the story. Is the story capable of sustaining the attention span of an audience over the course of 130 minutes? Another factor is the dialogue within the screenplay. Is the dialogue carefully crafted so audience members remain interested in developing an emotional connection with the characters in the story?
The last factor in maintaining an audience’s attention span is the charisma of the actors in the movie. The actors are responsible for conveying the emotional state of the characters they portray throughout the movie. Are the actors capable of maintaining a sense of mystery concerning the direction of the story through their characters?
Whether a movie is too long or not depends on the subjective nature of an audience. If the filmmaker captivates the attention span of the audience throughout the duration of a movie, then the subjective opinion of the audience will collectively agree that the movie was thoroughly entertaining. On the other hand, if the filmmaker fails at connecting emotionally with the audience through its characters, then the audience will perceive the story as boring and deem the movie way too long.