This week AMC theaters announced that Avengers: Endgame would indeed receive the epic runtime that had long been teased by directors Joe and Anthony Russo. Reportedly clocking in at three hours and two minutes, the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's ongoing story will become the longest theatrically released Hollywood superhero film in history, exceeding The Dark Knight Rises' two hours and 45 minutes and the theatrical version of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice's two hours and 31 minutes.
While extended home video releases of superhero films have crossed the three-hour mark before, most notably with the ultimate editions of Batman v. Superman and Watchmen, a three-hour long film receiving a wide theatrical release of any genre is something of a rarity in this day and age, with studios and theater chains looking to get in as many screenings as possible for more ticket sales. That the Russos are delivering on their long-standing claims of making Endgame three hours theatrically shows a strong vote of confidence from Disney and Marvel Studios in the filmmakers and the movie itself, especially without the inclusion of an intermission to help audiences cope with the long runtime.
Being released at over three hours sets a new high-water mark for superhero films in terms of length; most releases in the genre run somewhere between two to two and a half hours, with Endgame's predecessor, Avengers: Infinity War, running for two hours and 29 minutes. With superhero films escalating in scale and ambition, will Endgame set a precedent for future superhero films to emulate with epic runtimes signaling a shift to larger, more bombastic films in a genre known for constantly raising the stakes?
Outside of several probable exceptions, likely not. At the end of the day, studios and theater chains are still looking to maximize daily profits, and the long runtimes without intermissions would inevitably cut into both ticket sales and profits from concessions with the significantly reduced number of screenings. Three-hour long superhero films have been released overseas in Bollywood, but even those are rarities, despite many Indian theater chains providing intermissions to encourage audiences to purchase additional concessions during the scheduled break.
This isn't to say that future superhero films won't move towards more epic runtimes beyond the standard two and a half hours when Endgame predictably shatters box office records upon its wide release next month. Warner Bros. is looking to debut a new cinematic Batman in 2021, and Marvel Studios will inevitably release a new Avengers-level crossover film as it moves beyond The Infinity Saga into its unannounced future. Both of these films could potentially justify a three-hour runtime but, logistically, it's unlikely.