Tuesday, 12 July 2011

New Cinematic Model

Briefly, then:
  • Attention spans are waning. The human brain is adapting to be less effective at processing or retaining large volumes of information, but more effective at filtering it:
  • Dumb, spectacular blockbusters generate massive returns. See the Transformers series, the Pirates series, etc.
  • The longer a film is, the less money exhibitors make. Simply put, there are only so many hours in a day. On opening hours of, say 11am to 11pm, a cinema could screen a 3 hour movie 4 times, or a 2 hour movie 6 times. Which do you think it's going to want to screen?
  • Ergo: movies are going to get stupid and short.
Not so briefly, then:

The logical extension of the first three points outlined above is that, at some point in the future, someone is going to blow £50m on a massive, hour long action sequence, topped and tailed with some rudimentary exposition and character work. The sell to distributors is that the film can screen 12 times in a day, thereby generating three times as much revenue as a three hour movie. Why wouldn't they go for it?

Ever since The Story of the Kelly Gang, feature length has been popularly thought of as any film with a duration of about 70 minutes or greater. In fact, AMPAS (the Oscar folks) define a feature as anything over 40 minutes, and so for the sake of recognition, the type of movie I describe in the previous paragraph would be perfectly valid.

The question remains, however, as to whether or not the audience would take to it. Perhaps Tarantino's and Rodriguez's Grindhouse debacle suggests that audiences are not ready for shorter features, although at 80 and 90 minutes respectively, Planet Terror and Death Proof were not short when packaged together, and they were both substantially fleshed out for their independent releases, meaning that the turnaround time on a seat was still above two hours.

In the modern pace of life, time is at a premium, and fewer and fewer people are willing to give up 3 hours mid-week to go to the cinema. I don't even know that many people who will watch a DVD in a single swoop any more. A short, one-hour fix of movie allows time for patrons to get a meal or some drinks in either side of the movie without it taking up half a day, so shorter films ought, by rights, to put far more bums on seats mid-week.

Simply, I think it's going to take a couple of adventurous first movers looking to break into the top flight - perhaps one of Avi Lerner's vehicles, who are not averse to exploitation and taking occasional risks. Their results will tell...

1 comment:

  1. As if on cue, Auntie have just today published a piece on the effects the Internet is having on our brains: