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Get Back: Peter Jackson's 8-Hour Movie Suggests OTT Attention Spans Might Be Longer Than We Thought

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Like so many people, I spent the week after Thanksgiving 2021 enthralled with Get Back, Peter Jackson's 8-hour film rehabilitating the footage of The Beatles' recording sessions for Let It Be, the 1970 album and film that would be the band's swan song. I say "rehabilitating," because it told a markedly different story than the original movie's, which made the sessions seem absolutely miserable (and falsely portrayed Yoko Ono as responsible for the band's breakup). Jackson's film didn't gloss over the tensions in the band or the inhospitable conditions of Twickenham Studios, but put them in the context of a band that, despite their differences, was capable of remarkable creativity, spontaneity, and humor.

The fact that so many people—and not just Beatles fanatics—watched Get Back on Disney+ made me reflect on the conventional wisdom that says our attention spans have been destroyed by mobile devices and their infinite stream of messages, updates, video games, and memes. There's certainly some truth to that, but if we've learned anything from the streaming entertainment revolution, it's that we're willing to commit to binge-watching our favorite shows. And while most of us would balk at the notion of watching an 8-hour film (Get Back is split into three parts), we think nothing of watching a half-dozen episodes of a series in a single sitting.

Binge-watching didn't start with streaming, but rather with DVD box sets and the original version of Netflix, which sent DVDs to your door. My first experience with it was when I was an editor at EMedia magazine, a publication that covered the optical disc industry. Each year, we'd receive submissions for our annual DVD Awards, and one year brought me my first exposure to The Sopranos. My wife and I watched the entire first season over the course of a few days.

Today, binge-watching is many people's favored mode of viewing. That's entirely our industry's doing (some might say fault), and it stands as a compelling counterpoint to the notion that we've devolved to the point where we're incapable of paying sustained attention to stories and storytellers.

Photo by Linda McCartney. © 2020 Apple Corps Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

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