"It's hard to get out of the house to go the movies," Apatow said of his movie's long running time. "Movies are expensive, parking is expensive — why is everyone in a rush to go home? An extra 15 minutes won't kill you. Everyone thinks everything is like a two-minute YouTube video. And I refuse to adjust for them."
An early draft of Tony Kushner's script for "Lincoln" weighed in at 550 pages — enough to make a miniseries. Steven Spielberg's film ended up at a still long but more movie-house friendly 21/2 hours. Producer Kathleen Kennedy said audiences are increasingly showing an openness to extended tales, citing binge TV viewing and plans to release all 13 episodes of the Netflix-produced series "House of Cards" in one block in February.
"I would like us to break free of the artificial boundaries of storytelling," she said. "The audience is prepared to accept the fact that the form will fit that time."
In the case of "The Hobbit," critics derided the adventure movie as unnecessarily padded. The Times' Kenneth Turan wrote that an opening scene "goes on and on and on." A headline from the satirical news site the Onion read, " 'The Hobbit' To Feature 53-Minute-Long Scene Of Bilbo Baggins Trying To Figure Out What To Pack." But audiences awarded the nearly three-hour fantasy an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
For producer Bill Mechanic, the best measure of how long a movie should be isn't industry convention but audience behavior. Mechanic, who was running 20th Century Fox when the studio released "Titanic" in 1997, recalled a test screening of the more than three-hour film in which only three people in an audience of 150 went to the bathroom.
"Does it make the audience restless or are they lost in the story and they don't care?" Mechanic said. "Are they fidgety? Do they like it? A movie is only as long as it feels."
Times staff writer Amy Kaufman contributed to this report.