What is behind the studios’ requirement that directors bring their movies in at less than 128 minutes?    


The national mutiplex chains.

Since the 1948 U.S. vs. Paramount Supreme Court decision effectively ended their control of theaters, studios have come to depend on a handful of independently owned theater chains to open their movies. These chains, which generally make more money from the sale of popcorn than of tickets, profit by turning over their weekend audience at least three times each evening. “We are in the people-moving business,” one theater-chain president explained. If a movie’s length exceeds 128 minutes, it reduces the number of evening audience “turns” from three to two on weekends, which means 33 percent fewer popcorn-eating customers visiting their concession stands. So the chains often relegate longer films--such as Alexander, The Aviator, or Cold Mountain--to their smaller auditoriums and curtail their runs, thereby reducing the chance that these films will draw a large audience.

Studios therefore pressure directors-- though not always successfully-- to conform to the realities of the popcorn-driven economy, and keep  their movies to 128 minutes. Indeed, it is usually required by their contract.

This is a totally commerce-free site. No charges, no advertising.
The webmistress June Eng can be reached at