The original Justice League movie from 2017 was two hours long. This is a fairly average length for a blockbuster movie today. Now, in 2021, we have Zack Snyder’s Justice League in its complete glory. The HBO Max release clocks in at four hours and two minutes long. With how loudly fans clamored for the long-awaited Snydercut, no movie could be too long! Right? Well, maybe. The data has come in, and it seems that only 36% of US audience members on HBO Max finished the movie. In the United Kingdom, 48% of audiences stuck through watching the whole thing.
This data comes from Samba TV, a company known for breaking down metrics where they can and releasing reports on that information. It’s important to note that the data we have doesn’t cover every user who watched Justice League. Instead, they gathered data from opted-in SmartTVs. This means viewership numbers should be higher, and that could also affect the ratio for how many people are actually finishing the movie. Still, of the 2.2 million people that Samba TV recorded tuning in for Justice League in the United States, only 792k of them finished watching it. Recently, Twitter user Luiz Fernando, a box office enthusiast, broke down what some of these numbers mean and put them into perspective with other recent HBO Max releases.
What they’re seeing in the data for Zack Snyder’s Justice League suggests that while more people tuned in to watch the Snydercut as soon as it released, that many of them didn’t finish the movie. Moreover, the next week, fewer people tuned in. This makes it sound like interest in Justice League died off. One theory for why that might happen with this title is that the audiences interested in tuning in for a four-hour Snyderverse movie were likely to do so as soon as it released on HBO Max. After the hungriest fans were done with the movie, not as many casual viewers were likely to choose a four-hour superhero movie on the streaming service. Another theory is that the people who didn’t finish it told their friends it wasn’t worth bothering.
Is four hours just too long for a movie? Even a DC movie with a hungry fanbase?
This was recently discussed on an episode of the podcast Scriptnotes. The podcast is written for screenwriters, by screenwriters. One of the hosts, Craig Mazin, admitted that he had actually been invited to see the Snydercut of Justice League before Zack Snyder had stopped working on it. He never mentioned this to the show’s audience since he wasn’t sure it would ever come out. The early version he saw was three hours long. When he caught up with the four-hour version, he thought it held up well and was a solid movie, better than the 2017 Justice League put together by Joss Whedon. After admitting all of this, the writer wondered if we would be seeing more four-hour long movies go directly to streaming in the future. He suggested that perhaps online venues are opening the way for this kind of movie.
This sounds like an interesting idea. Maybe the four-hour movie is a new kind of thing. Could it be limited to movies like Justice League with an established fanbase to show it to? Or could it be a thing filmmakers can move into creating if they feel their project warrants it?
However, this new data from HBO Max viewership suggests that creators may want to hold their horses on this one. Was Zack Snyder’s Justice League a movie that didn’t hold the casual viewer’s attention? It does seem more like it was made for the superfan. Many people loved it. Snyderverse fans are naturally more likely to accept a four-hour version, since for many fans, no movie could ever be enough. But maybe a four-hour movie is asking a lot of most audiences? For whatever reason, not as many people are sticking to the end of Justice League. That can’t bode well for getting more of the Snyderverse, even as hard as fans are trying.