Reading this post made me curious about the length of Oscar winners from 1928-2012, so I made a graph.
As far as box-office giants go, there does seem to be a trend of lengthy, lengthy, now-I-understand-why-old-movies-had-intermissions blockbusters, and Peter Travers apparently believes that this is a result of Oscar season:
Hollywood studios believe movies are weighed by the pound when it comes to Academy thinking. If it ain’t long, it ain’t winning. Stupid, I know, since The Artist and The King’s Speech weren’t long. But ever since Gone With the Wind and Ben-Hur and Lawrence of Arabia, continuing through Titanic, Braveheart, Gladiator, and Lord of the Rings, they think Oscar will not take any epic seriously if it’s under two hours.
A quick glance at the chart tells me that most of them seem to be around the two-hour mark. The official average length is 139 minutes.
Only three Oscar winners have ever been below 100 minutes: Marty (1955), Annie Hall (1977), and Driving Miss Daisy (1989). And only four have ever been above 200 minutes: Gone With the Wind (1940), Ben-Hur (1959), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and The Return of the King (2003). The Godfather: Part II (1974) was 200 minutes exactly.
By decade, things have remained pretty constant since the 50s, with a spike in the 90s. Hats off to Dances With Wolves (1990), Schindler’s List (1993), Braveheart (1995), and Titanic (1997) for that.
Are movies getting longer? Maybe. Probably. But is length a viable strategy for winning an Oscar? Only if you think two hours and nineteen minutes is a long time to spend watching the Best Picture of the Year.