Are Blockbusters getting longer?

As I entered the second hour of Avengers: Endgame I start to think are movies getting longer? To be more specific are blockbusters getting longer? So I looked at the top 20 films in the American Box Office according to from 1979 to 2019.

The longest film on the list is the 2003 conclusion to the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King which came in at whopping three hours and twenty one minutes. (But that wasn’t long enough and they made a longer version which is FOUR HOURS and twelve minutes). The shortest film on my list is the 1999 Matthew Broderick kids film Inspector Gadget which came in at a very manageable 89 minutes.

Back to the original question, are films getting longer. If you sat down and watched all the top 20 films in 1981, you would be done in about a day and a half (exactly 1 day 11 hours and 11 minutes). You can probably sleep through Endless Love and Bustin’ Loose (maybe that’s harsh, I haven’t seen either).

Now compare that to 2019 and it would take you over one whole working week (1 day 18 hours 30 minutes, assuming a 8 hour work day and 5 day work week) to see the all the top 20 films. In fact 2019 is the longest year on record but the trend has been on the up since about 2010.

The average runtime for a film in the top 20 US Box Office was 127 minutes. If this worrying trend continues in only eight years the average film length could be over 3 hours and by 2030 The Irishman’s 3 hour 30 minute runtime would be the norm.

So why are films getting longer? Is it because of the introduction of digital cinema and the death of expensive celluloid? Can it be mapped to economic factors? Are people demanding more for their very expensive cinema tickets? Is it a conspiracy by film studios to fill up cinemas and crowd out any smaller films at the multiplex? And what will the future bring? Will streaming and the death of cinemas accelerate the rate of increase? What do you think?