Did Blade Runner 2049’s long running time contribute to poor box office?

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Raise your virtual hand if you’ve waited to see Blade Runner 2049 because you just haven’t been able to find three hours to kill?

At 164 minutes plus previews, you’re in for a long haul if you wanna catch Denis Villeneuve’s 35-years-in-the-making Blade Runner sequel; perhaps — judging by the disappointing number of people who have seen it — too long. That’s certainly the opinion of Michael Deeley, who produced Ridley Scott’s original. Mind you, he hasn’t seen 2049 yet.

”The picture is very long. It must have been cut-able and should have been. They can’t do better [box office] because they can’t play it more than three times a day because it’s just too long, which is of course self-indulgent at the very least, arrogant probably. It’s criminal,” Deeley told Screen Daily.

While Deeley and Scott’s film has no doubt lasted the test of time, it wasn’t exactly a sequel-worthy hit at the box office either, and that’s with a runtime of 117 minutes. Besides, it’s not like we haven’t seen lengthy box office smashes before, just look at the two most money-making films of all time: James Cameron's Titanic (3 hours 14 minutes) and Avatar (2 hours 42 minutes). 

Still, 2049 is deliberately long. As we found out this week from the film’s editor, Joe Walker, “The first assembly of the film was nearly four hours and for convenience sake and — to be honest — my bladder’s sake, we broke it into two for viewings.” Which caused some outlets to fallaciously report that Blade Runner 2049 had originally been broken up into two parts, but it was always one film, just a long one; there was lots to whittle down, and Villeneuve doesn’t appear to have been all that ruthless about it.

If you’ve seen the film, you know they let it breathe, nice and slow, atmospherically so. And that steady burn dramatizes into an incredible payoff that likely wouldn’t have had such punch without such patience. Regardless of the reasons people didn’t rush out to see Blade Runner 2049, it’s a shame, because it’s one of the best sci-fi films we’ve seen on the big screen in a long time, regardless if it’s a little long.  

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