Clocking in at Three Hours and $207,000,000 ... It's "King Kong"!!

The New York Times is reporting that not only will Peter Jackson's "King Kong" come with a running time of 180 minutes, but also with a new price-tag that's just north of $200 million. Neither of these "problems" caused much of a roadblock for smash hits like "Titanic" and the "Lord of the Rings" epics, so there's no reason to expect that is bad news.

"With seven weeks to go before the movie's release, the risks are becoming clearer. After seeing a version of the film in late September at Mr. Jackson's studio in New Zealand, Universal executives agreed to release "King Kong" at a length of three hours.

The film is substantially longer than Universal had anticipated and presents dual obstacles: the extra length has helped increase the budget by a third, to $207 million, while requiring the studio, owned by General Electric, to reach for the kind of long-term audience interest that made hits out of three-hour movies like "Titanic" and the films in Mr. Jackson's "Rings" trilogy.

Asked about the length of "King Kong," Universal executives said they saw it as an advantage in an era when jaded moviegoers are hungering for something extraordinary.

"This is a three-hour feast of an event," said Marc Shmuger, vice chairman of Universal Pictures, who described the film as a tragic love story between the ape and Naomi Watts, who plays Ann Darrow, an actress. "I've never come close to seeing an artist working at this level."

"I anticipated it would be long, but not this long," the Universal chairwoman, Stacey Snider, said. As recently as late September, she expected about two hours and 40 minutes, she said. But on Wednesday she expressed delight with the picture she's got: "This is a masterpiece. I can't wait to unveil it."

The increased length, Ms. Snider said, means that the movie will cost $32 million more than planned, adding to expenses that had already gone up $25 million from an original $150 million production budget."

($150m + $25m + $32m = $207 million!) Indie filmmakers the world over are, right now, shaking their collective fist at the universe.

For the rest of the article, head on over to The New York Times. (Free registration required.)

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