Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower’ makes its launch on the big screen with stars Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba on Aug. 4.
Sony Pictures

The most heroic feats of this summer’s popcorn movies may be the blessedly short run times. 

After The Hobbit, Transformers and Harry Potter franchises conditioned us to equate big-budget studio fare with punishing lengths of 2½ hours or more, a recent crop of films suggests that may no longer be the case.

Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed World War II drama Dunkirk, the box-office champ ($112.6 million to date) for the past two weeks, clocks in at a brisk 1 hour and 46 minutes. That’s notably slimmer than the director’s past summer movies Inception (2 hours, 28 minutes) and The Dark Knight Rises (2 hours, 45 minutes). 

Tom Cruise’s disappointing The Mummywas a mere 1 hour and 51 minutes this summer, and Stephen King’s similarly derided The Dark Tower (in theaters) is a relatively painless 1 hour and 35 minutes, surprisingly brief, given that it cherry-picks from an eight-book series. New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi recently told that his upcoming Marvel movie Thor: Ragnarok is only about 100 minutes. All of this could signal the death knell for the bloated blockbuster.

“I definitely see the beginning of a trend,” says Erik Davis, managing editor for and “You never see anybody complain about a short movie, but if a movie’s too long, they’ll complain.”

Director Nikolaj Arcel says Dark Tower was always envisioned as a tightly told introduction to King’s fantasy world where the vengeful Gunslinger (Idris Elba) and villainous Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) do battle.The original script was about 100 pages, then the editing process shaved off an additional 10 to 12 minutes. 

“I like it,” Arcel says. “Personally, I’ve made films where I sit through them like, ‘Oh, my God, Nik, why didn’t you cut out 20 minutes of this?’ I certainly have indulged myself sometimes in my own work. If it’s a trend, I think it’s a good trend.”

Part of the reason we could be seeing shorter movies is that studios are trying to appease theater owners, and in turn boost ticket…