Monday, 2 April 2012

Cinema by the Numbers: Who is the Greatest Director in the World? (Part 3)

First and foremost, read Part 1 and Part 2 (if you haven't already) before going on to Part 3 below. Second, this will be the last of the "boring" posts in this series, and I will be spending a little time in getting the juicier stuff done. My excel and stats knowledge has been undergoing a devastating overhaul, and I thank my resident expert Cheri van der Westhuizen for that. Anyway, today I want to take a closer look at Running Time and the various questions around it. Hit the jump...

Average running time for the movies recorded: 118.62 minutes.

Longest Movie recorded: Spike Lee's Malcolm X at 202 minutes.

Shortest Movie recorded: Christopher Nolan's Following at 69 minutes.

Directors with the Longest Average running time (minutes):

  1. Paul Thomas Anderson (139.6)
  2. Oliver Stone (138.06)
  3. Peter Jackson (137.8)
  4. James Cameron (137.5)
  5. David Fincher (135.78)
Directors with the Shortest Average running time:
  1. David Cronenberg (98.81)
  2. Woody Allen (94.90)
  3. Nicolas Winding Refn (95.86)
  4. Wes Anderson (98.50)
  5. Darren Aronofsky (99.80)
It's truly bizarre that so many of my absolute favourite directors are in these two lists. Further interesting but useless information is that David Fincher, Steven Spielberg, Ed Zwick and James L Brooks are the only directors (of the 50) who have never directed a movie shorter than 1 Hour and 45 Minutes; and Nicolas Winding Refn is the only director who has never gone over 1 Hour and 45 Minutes!

How does running time relate to overall score? 

I always thought that longer movies often get higher scores. I'm not really sure why, but perhaps more time is required in order to make a true, lasting impression. If you look at the top 10 movies on's Top 250 of all time, the average running time is a monstrous 161 minutes (that's 2 Hours and 41 Minutes in case you can't figure that out). Insane, especially considering that the short 96 minute running time of 12 Angry Men shortens that average by 8 minutes alone!

The graphic below reflects this, but what's interesting is that it indicates a dip in scores somewhere around the middle. So it seems that the real good scores go to movies that are either really long, or really short. Odd.

Are Movies Getting Longer?

I suppose they are, yes. The graphic below shows that, with the top 50 directors at least, movies are getting longer by around 5 minutes every 10 years. Not much there. This is probably due to the fact that movies will always be around 2 hours on average. Too short is not worth the ticket price (which I don't agree with), and too long means too few shows in a day and fewer box office takings. At the end of the day it's a business, and the 2 hours you typically spend watching a movie are mostly informed by maximizing the profits in that business.

Do Directors' movies get longer?

This is an interesting question. As a director becomes more experienced, could this have an impact on running time? I think it does, and so do the results. One reason may be that projects tackled become increasingly complex and challenging, and therefore lengthy. The cynic would argue that ego is directly proportional to fame, and therefore running time as well. Another argument could be that as a director gains more experience, he or she also gains greater influence and clout over the studios. As such, it is increasingly unlikely that a producer could force the director to reduce the running time. Either way, movies do get longer...

It's not as simple as a mere increase though. The above data indicates a peak somewhere around the age of 60. Interesting, is 60 the age at which a director's ego is at it's biggest? Do they get softer in their old age? 

Enough of all this nonsense. Next up I will start focusing on the point of this exercise - who the best director is.

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