When you see a trailer, poster, or ad for a movie, the “runtime” of the movie often appears. so you’d think it would be pretty easy to figure out exactly how long the movie is.
However, once you factor in the timing of your entry, the length of previews, and the length of end credits, it can be confusing trying to figure out when your movie actually ends. (And to further complicate matters, runtimes are listed as “137 minutes” instead of “2 hours, 17 minutes”).
Often, this isn’t a big deal: when the movie ends, you might just go straight home. but I’ve had a lot of trouble trying to coordinate the logistics of a movie ticket along with dinner reservations, sporting events, and even the closing time of my local ice cream parlor. after all, there’s nothing better than enjoying a great movie and having an ice cream after the movie.
By now, you might be thinking: just give me the answer to my question. do movie runtimes include previews or not? Do the runtimes include the end credits?
The quick answer is that the movie length includes the end credits, but not the opening previews. so if your movie is 120 minutes long, this means that it will last almost exactly 120 minutes. (rounded to the nearest minute) from the first frame of the film company logo to the last frame of the end credits.
for hardcore movie loyalists and fans of the “stinger” (the post-credits scene some movies like to include), this means you’ll spend 120 minutes watching the movie and the credits, plus the time it took the opening trailers. .
For anyone who leaves as soon as the credits start rolling, you can subtract 5-10 minutes from the runtime to calculate the amount of time you’ll be watching the “real movie”. in the example above, your 120 minute movie would only have about 115 minutes of cinema that you would watch, since the final ~5 minutes are the end credits.
Disclosures and disclaimers will follow, and we must warn you that there is a lot of variability in the length of the trailers and the length of the end credits.
So, if you want to be sure you’ll be out of the theater in time for kickoff or first pitch, read on!
how to calculate
as mentioned above, the advertised running time of a movie includes the total time of the movie, from the first frame to the last frame. and as we mentioned, the “end” frame is the last frame at the end of the credits. however, previews (“trailers”) are not included in this runtime.
so the formula to calculate when your movie will end is like this:
- take the start time of your movie, add ~20 minutes for previews, then add the full runtime of the movie
Let’s give an example:
Say your movie starts at 9:00 p.m. m. after 20 minutes of previews, your movie will start around 9:20. if the movie is 120 minutes long (exactly 2 hours), it will play from 9:20 (the opening frame) to 11:20 (the ending frame of the end credits).
In this example, your movie ends at 11:20. if you want to “escape” as soon as the credits start rolling, this will save you 5-10 minutes. in this example, the movie is made between 11:10 and 11:15.
Note that there are two variables that dictate what time your movie ends (other than the movie’s runtime).
First, our example above assumes that a movie theater will show 20 minutes of previews.
Second, our example above estimates 5-10 minutes of end credits.
Below, we will discuss these topics in more detail.
different theaters – different policies for previews?
To find out what time your movie starts, take the time on your ticket and then add the duration of the previews/trailers. sounds pretty easy, right? not exactly.
Here’s the rub: The length of trailers that play before a movie varies across theaters, even theaters from the same company.
amc theaters states that there is “approximately 20 minutes of pre-show material”. But even from one AMC theater to another, you can find 12- or 22-minute trailers, or anywhere in between. And during peak movie season, when blockbusters are coming to theaters soon, some theaters extend the length of previews even longer.
therefore, there is no way of knowing exactly what time the movie actually starts. The only exception is that if you have a movie theater that you frequent, you will be able to discover the routine of your particular room. Better yet, you could ask some employees who are involved in running the theater (in other words, don’t ask the teen serving popcorn a technical question about running the theater).
what about the end credits?
Our previous examples have used an estimate of 5-10 less for the end credits. but again, there’s a huge amount of variation here.
Some movies that have a simple production and a small cast have short end credits, often 5 minutes or less. for example, the average “chick flick” (romantic comedy) has a small cast and simple cinematography.
This means there aren’t many actors to credit, which saves some time. but more importantly, there are no hundreds of stuntmen, CG creators, sound mixers, etc. and usually the names that slow down the credits the most are off-screen roles (sound, video, and graphics), rather than actors.
Other movies that have elaborate stunts, graphics, and sound editing will have long end credits. action movies, superhero movies, and movies that rely heavily on cgi tend to have end credits longer than 10 minutes. they have many actors, many graphic editors/creators, many sound mixers, many stuntmen, and hundreds of off-screen roles that are necessary to create a modern blockbuster.
There are also examples of short films (less than 90 minutes of running time) that have used credits as a way to “pad” their running time. for example, if you make a movie that is only 80 minutes long, you can add 20 minutes of credits so that the movie is advertised as 100 minutes of total running time. when people pay over $15 for a premium ticket, 100 minutes of running time sounds so much better than just 80, even if the last 20 minutes is just bullshit!
One last famous example is the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings movies, which have credits longer than 20 minutes and even include a list of fan club members.
The “running time” of a movie actually includes the length of the movie plus the length of the end credits. however, this runtime does not include opening previews.
If your ticket says a movie starts at 7:00, you must be there by 7:10 at the latest. although many theaters play more than 20 minutes of trailers, some show only 10-12 minutes. Arriving within 10 minutes of the posted performance time should ensure you don’t miss any of the action.
And for anyone rushing out of the theater, remember that the last 5-10 minutes of a movie’s runtime are just the end credits. so if you make a note of when the movie starts in its opening frame, remember that the movie’s advertised running time actually exaggerates the movie’s length. therefore, if the first frame of a 120-minute movie is played at 7:20, the movie will end before 9:20, since the last few minutes will be the credits.