A feature film is a term the film industry uses to refer to a film made for initial distribution in theaters.


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,[1] the American Film Institute,[2] and the British Film Institute[3] all define a feature as a film with a running time of 40 minutes or longer. The "Centre national de la cinématographie" in France defines it as a 35mm film which is longer than 1,600 metres, which comes out to exactly 58 minutes and 29 seconds for sound films, and the Screen Actors Guild gives a minimum running time of 80 minutes.[4] Usually a feature film is between 90 and 210 minutes; a children's film is usually between 60 and 120 minutes[citation needed]. An anthology film is a fixed sequence of short subjects with a common theme, combined into a feature film.


The term evolved from the days when the cinema-goer would watch a series of short subjects before the main film. The shorts would typically include newsreels, serials, animated cartoons and live-action comedies and documentaries. These types of short films would lead up to what came to be called the "featured presentation": the film given the most prominent billing and running multiple reels.

Based on length, the first feature film was the 70-minute film The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906) from Australia. The first European feature was the 90-minute film L'Enfant prodigue (1907), although that was basically an unmodified record of a stage play; Europe's first feature adapted directly for the screen, Les Misérables, came in 1909. The first Russian feature was Defence of Sevastopol in 1911. The first UK features were the documentary With Our King and Queen Through India (1912), filmed in Kinemacolor, and Oliver Twist (1912). The first American features were a different production of Oliver Twist (1912), From the Manger to the Cross (1912), and Richard III (1912), the latter starring actor Frederick Warde. Earlier features had been produced in America, but were released in separate one-reel parts, leaving the exhibitor the option of running them together; or they were full-length records of a boxing match. The first Asian feature was Japan's The Life Story of Tasuke Shiobara (1912), and the first South American feature was Brazil's O Crime dos Banhados (1913).

By 1915 over 600 features were produced annually in America. The best year of U.S. feature production was 1921, with 854 releases; the worst was 1963, with 121 releases. Between 1922 and 1970, the U.S. and Japan alternated as leaders in feature production. Since 1971, the country with the highest feature output has been India.[5]

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. 79th Academy Awards Rules, Rule 2: Eligibility.
  2. The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures.
  3. Denis Giford, The British Film Catalogue.
  4. Screen Actors Guild Letter Agreement for Low-Budget Theatrical Features.
  5. Patrick Robertson, Film Facts, New York: Billboard Books, 2001, p. 15.
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