Cinema owners ask if they are getting a fair deal financially from a three-hour Hobbit

We were given a break - and time for a pee - when they screened Cleopatra.

We were given a break – and time for a pee – when they screened Cleopatra.

Sir Peter Jackson, we may suppose, is laughing all the way to the bank on the back of The Hobbit.

Movie-goers, too, are doubtless chuffed by the film’s three-hour length, although Alf is bound to observe that this must require them to sit on their chuffs for three hours, which must be worse than sitting in the debating chamber for that period of time while Labour and Green politicians are banging on about this, that and the other.

But the people who run cinemas are not so thrilled, as you will learn here.

While those watching The Hobbit might have felt they got their money’s worth when it came down to the film’s three-hour length, cinemas showing the blockbuster were left feeling a little hard done by.

Now U.S. cinema owners have commissioned a report into losses suffered when screening a longer film four times a day rather than on six occasions, which is standard for a normal 90-minute film.

The National Association of Theatre Owners is the mob behind this initiative.

It is concerned that audiences are growing tired of movies made by Hollywood directors who could comfortably reduce the length of their longest films.

Sir Peter should pay heed to Alfred Hitchcock, director of Psycho, Vertigo and Rear Window (among others).

He famously once said: ‘The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.’

But his comments came in the 1950s, when films averaged 114 minutes – in contrast to Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which is 174 minutes, reported the Sunday Times.

Cloud Atlas – a new drama based on a novel by David Mitchell starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, is just three minutes shorter than that, and many other Oscar contenders are more than 150 minutes.

One executive at the AMC (American Multi-Cinema) chain told Britain’s Sunday Times he blames Titanic and Avatar director James Cameron for ‘creating long “event” movies you had to see’.

Wairarapa people should take note of that observation.

It means two film-makers with properties in their region – Sir Peter and this Cameron feller – share an inclination to stretch a story beyond breaking point for most people’s bladders.

We are reminded that some of the longest films in decades gone by on the big screen would come with an interval – and cinemas would often take that as a chance to sell food and drink to viewers.

Famous long films from the past include 1963 classic Cleopatra, which ran for 242 minutes, the 229-minute Once Upon a Time in America from 1984 and 1962’s 222-minute Lawrence of Arabia.

Also among the longest films are Dr. Zhivago from 1965, which ran for 203 minutes, 1974’s The Godfather Part II, which lasted 200 minutes, and the 195-minute Schindler’s List from 1993.

The intervals were important for another reason.

Besides giving Alf an opportunity to re-stock on jaffas for rolling down the aisle, they enabled him to duck off to the gents for a pee without missing any of the plot.

Now that he has the prostate problems that come with age, of course, he would require Sir Peter and James Cameron to provide for four or five intervals to accomplish the same thing.

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