Today’s hit films are having shorter runs in theatres than they did 20 and 25 years ago, says this 7.14 Gregg Kilday piece in the Hollywood Reporter. I had suspected as much before reading it. The burn rate on everything is faster today than it was during the Reagan-Bush era.
The most interesting portion of Kilday’s article notes that while Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull lasted in theatres for eight and seven weeks respectively — the ’08 summer’s two longest runs so far — 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom spent 12 weeks in the top 10, and ’89’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade spent 10 weeks in the top 10.
“Today, eight weeks in the top 10 — which generally requires that a movie is playing in at least 1,000 locations — is a significant achievement,” writes Kilday.
In the good old days of the mid to late ’80s computers were using Flintstones-level technology and IBM Selectrics were the writing device of choice. The interactive darting-eye video-game aesthetic was in its nascent stages. Attention spans were probably longer back then, and the across-the-board instant gratification principle hadn’t yet taken over. Some GenXers were in their early 20s, but most were in their teens. GenYers were toddlers and tweeners and GenD kidz — those born in the early ’90s and later, easily the fastest-information-processing generation of all — hadn’t been conceived.
So yes, it was a somewhat slower, almost entirely analog world back then, and so, yeah, of course, hit movies tended to hang around longer.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the general pattern for the average super-hit movie of 2020 will be five or six weeks and out. I wouldn’t be surprised if all movies, big and small, were to open everywhere in all media simultaneously. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have no DVD or Blu-ray retail stores whatsoever by 2020 — and it’ll be a profoundly sad thing when this happens, whether it’s five or ten years from now. Stop what you’re doing and shed a tear for the future of the DVD and Blu-ray community of movie lovers worldwide.