The 6-hour movie: could it become the new normal?

But is this idea realistic?

A demand for immersion

The ultra-long movie is not a concept that many people have talked about. Commercial films have been around two-hours-long, on average, since the 1950s. There’s been the odd epic flick thrown in here and there: Ben Hur was three-and-a-half hours-long; Cleopatra, with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, over four hours; but these have always been the exception to the rule.

Ever-improving technology, however, has made the idea of ​​immersion a popular one: Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technology seeks to transport you to another world, video games beam ever-more realistic worlds through our screens, while even online casinos bring you an immersive betting experience with live-dealer games.

This is backed up by the success of blockbuster series like Succession, which smashed viewing records and got everyone talking. Shows like these offer big-budget, beautifully-filmed content streamed through your TV screen. You do not need to venture out to the cinema to get your cinematic fix any more: it’s all there in its HD glory taking pride of place in your living room. What’s more, binge watching is in demand like never before: people think nothing of watching five or six hours of their favorite TV show back-to-back, so why can’t the film industry provide its own alternative?

The six-hour concept

The ultra-long movie that Cameron is suggesting, though, may not be what you’re thinking of. Instead of sitting through a six-hour film non-stop, the director believes that a revolutionary new theatrical streaming model is the answer.

Viewers would be able to choose which version of the movie they want to see: the first would involve it being split into episodes, much like a TV series, for home viewing. The second option would be an edited two-hour version that would appear in traditional cinemas. With this model, the consumer benefits from cinema-quality TV in digestible chunks, while also having the option of making a trip to the local movie theater.

Central to this idea is the concept of consumer choice. In the digital age, we are all so used to having a galaxy of viewing options that the old-fashioned movie format is starting to look a little out-of-date. It’s also been done before: Carlosthe biopic about serial killer Carlos the Jackal, was split into three TV episodes totaling five-and-a-half hours back in 2010. There was also a slimmed-down two-hour version in cinemas.

So, what’s not to like?

The drawbacks

Like with most new ideas, though, Cameron’s suggestion has attracted its fair share of criticism. What’s the point in going to the cinema to see some edited version of a film? What will we be missing from the longer movie? These are two common questions. Some critics even fear that it could lead to the death of cinema as we know it, an industry that has already suffered greatly during the pandemic.

Also, you could argue that many TV series already offer high-quality cinematic viewing. Epic dramas like The Game of Thrones boast episodes that feel like mini films in themselves, with their sky-high budgets and cutting-edge technology. A six-hour movie delivered in hour-long bundles might feel a lot like watching your favorite TV show anyway.

But it’s difficult to blame Cameron for trying to find alternatives. Internet platforms are increasingly flexible, and it would be foolish not to explore all of the options they can give us in the future.

Possible alternatives

If there’s one thing that’s certain about the next decade or so, it’s that change will play a huge part. As mentioned, we already see VR and AR in video games, and TV and film industries aren’t far behind. One avenue that movie-makers might explore is offering fully immersive films where viewers find themselves virtually transported into the world on their screens. Graphics and special effects will appear life-like and will allow us to experience movies like never before.

Film companies might also take a leaf out of the book of movies like Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch, where the viewer gets to choose what happens next in the storyline. While this involves a lot of work for the film maker, the freedom to create your own movie has been a big hit with movie fans.

Innovations like these are what James Cameron will need to consider as we embark on the next stage of the digital revolution, which may include a six-hour movie coming to a TV near you soon.

Photo: According to movie director James Cameron, it’s the ideal length for a movie. And he should know: the man behind epics such as Titanic spirit Avatar has kept audiences rooted to their seats for decades now, and he thinks the epic movie is cinema’s perfect response to the Netflix series boom.

Photo by pawel szvmanski on Unsplash

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