Over the past five months, many films that were originally supposed to get traditional theatrical releases have shifted to VOD or streaming debuts. And a hefty percentage of the big releases all have something common: they’re approx. 90 minutes long.
For animated movies, 90 minutes is fairly standard. DreamWorks & Universal’s “Trolls World Tour” and Warner Bros. “SCOOB!” were two of the first big studio films to shift to an At Home premiere. And they’re both at that hour and a half sweet spot for families. A crop of live-action films has taken over in the past couple months.
“Artemis Fowl” was thrown onto Disney+ as a way for the Mouse House to finally move on from director Kenneth Branagh’s disastrous book to screen adaptation. I was fairly surprised that a sci-fi action/adventure of this sort was only 95 min., and I suspect several scenes/elements were cut out.
Paramount also gave “The Lovebirds” to Netflix as a way to finally be done with this title once and for all. The disappointing Kumail Nanjiani/Issa Rae comedy is under 90 min. (thankfully). Universal’s haunted house thriller “You Should Have Left” starring Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried is a brisk hour and a half, as well as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s airplane thriller “7500”, which flew to Amazon Prime Video.
But the 90-minute trend really took shape on July 10th, with the same day releases of Tom Hanks’ “Greyhound” on AppleTV+ and Andy Samberg’s “Palm Springs” on Hulu. Both clock-in at 90 min. So does Dave Franco’s “The Rental”. And this weekend: “An American Pickle” (HBO Max), “Howard” (Disney+) and “Made in Italy”, “The Tax Collector” & “I Used to Go Here” (all VOD) are just about that same length as well.
Think back, if you will, to February… when moviegoers were paying high ticket prices for films of varying lengths. I’ve complained about it for years, but it took COVID-19 to shake-up our mentality a little bit. If “Greyhound” was released in theaters on May 8th (like it was supposed to), it probably would’ve been shown in RPX and other premium screen formats. It may have scored an IMAX deal close to opening day. Would you have paid as much as $20 a ticket to see a film that’s 80 minutes long, plus 10 minutes of closing credits (that you might not have stayed for)?
Some people did it before without batting an eye. But if and when indoor theaters re-open, I’m not sure audiences will come-out in droves for anything under two hours. It may not be worth it anymore. A message to studios: stick the short stuff on VOD. You’ll probably make more money that way.