China requires all movies in theaters to limit movie run time to max 2 hours – Tenet needs to cut 30+ minutes

Christopher Nolan’s Tenet just hit another roadblock in China’s movie theaters: maximum run time length of two hours.

As if there weren’t enough issues complicating theatrical releases, China has announced a new barrier. While it’s allowing theaters to reopen as of July 20, that permission comes with a caveat: To limit the length of time audiences spend in auditoriums, all titles must run two hours or less.

‘Tenet’ Faces a New Challenge: China Says It’s Too Long to Play | IndieWire

Actually, I like this safety requirement. I like this for the majority of movies even without COVID-19.

As a general rule, I’ve felt most movies I’m seeing are too long. Sure, I’ve enjoyed movies that were longer than two hours, but prefer that movies look at 90 minutes as a target and if they go over, they have 30 extra minutes of buffer. The vast majority of films have stories that can be told effectively in two hours or less.

At the same time, artificial limits for films can limit a story that truly can’t be told in that amount of run time. If the story goes too long, just go the Kill Bill route and split the films up into two distinct parts and separate films. If it’s really long, then go the series route. There are any number of streaming channels that would welcome a good miniseries. If the story can be expanded beyond 8 hours, start considering it to be a TV series broken by seasons.

Films started out being around an hour in length, but that was 100 years ago. As time has gone on, movies have gotten longer and more bladder challenging. Some so long that sites like RunPee (see: Need A Bathroom Break During the Movie? Runpee to the rescue) have become necessary tools.

Back to Tenet.

What should they do to get down to two hours? A China-specific edit (The Tenet China Cut) is likely the most logical answer. Or they can skip China, but that’s a huge market they can’t really afford budget-wise to ignore. The film is about 30 minutes over, so Nolan and his editor needs to get cutting.

What do you think of this COVID-19 requirement in China? Would you like to see it imposed in the United States? I wouldn’t mind, would you?

7 thoughts on “China requires all movies in theaters to limit movie run time to max 2 hours – Tenet needs to cut 30+ minutes

  1. As a screenwriter and journalism major, I am not for any strict guideline that tells me how long a screenplay MUST be. I’m not sure if I’d ever write a film along the lines of, say, A Bridge Too Far or Schindler’s List, which would exceed the 90-120 minutes runtime limit. But if I DID…I’d be inclined to let the story, and not the government – such as the Chinese regime – determine the amount of pages in my script.

    So far, I’ve written 2 1/3 scripts. Two complete screenplays that I can call my own, and the middle act of another script mostly written by actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. They’re for short films that you can stream for free on YouTube, so obviously I’m not quite where I’m ready to write a feature film script yet.

    Anyway, those are my two centavos’ worth.


    1. Professor Strunk: “Omit needless words!” — the same could be said for almost any creative work. I agree that artificial limits are bad for stories, however most writers — myself included — could afford to prune more. It’s easy to be bloated with words, much harder to say what you mean economically. The same is true of filmmaking. Tighten, prune, tighten. Our work sings.

      (as I say that, sheepishly realizing that very little editing is done here lol)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree…omitting needless words is important. That’s one of the reasons why it takes me an hour, sometimes even more, to write a blog post. I often go through two or more drafts before I hit the “publish” button.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. BTW, despite loving Schindler’s List, I would have cut some from that movie. Too long.

        Probably will anger some reading this comment. Jaws? Would have cut some from that … I know, I know, considered one of the most perfect films ever. Still, I thought some scenes were redundant (the land based scenes, that is, I loved everything with the shark and Quint).

        Gave five stars to Shawshank Redemption and do believe that a few minutes could have been cut from that. Probably couldn’t have gotten it down to 2 hours, but probably 10 minutes at least could have been cut. (it’s 2 hr, 28 min).

        Some movies I cannot think of something to cut? Back To The Future (1 hr, 56 minutes). Airplane (1 hr, 28 min). Psycho (1 hr, 49 min). Miracle on 34th Street (1 hr, 41 min).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I like it. Especially because my theater (before this mess started) was already averaging 25+ minutes of previews and commercials but I can bet Nolan is not going to like it and considering the power he seems to exercise it will be interesting to see where this one goes. Will he cut his movie for China? Or will they pull it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My guess in these current times is that he agrees to cut it. I want to see both versions and compare. Just a guess, and I could be wrong, but betting I’ll like the cut version better.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s