At long last, Metropolis, the film that took nearly a year to shoot, premiered in Berlin on January 10, 1927. Lang’s original version of Metropolis, at its intended frame rate, ran over three hours long. Before release, however, Metropolis went through a number of cuts and was re-edited to change many key elements before screening to satisfy the studio heads at UFA. Secondly, the film was hurt by the fact that threatre managers showed the film at a highly accelerated speed. The actual frame rate of the film has been disputed (although it was most likely the standard of the day, 16 frames per second), but in most theatres the film was shown at an incredible 26 frames per second to further shorten the film to 153 minutes. This disrupted the pacing of the film and the end result was a butchered and oftentimes illogical film that was received with only moderate enthusiasm.
The audiences at Berlin, however, saw the version that was closest to Lang’s intention. When the film debuted in the United States, threatre managers were generally unwilling to show films longer than ninety minutes in length, as they felt that most audience members would not want to see a movie that long. American playwright Channing Pollock re-edited the film once more, almost completely obscuring the original plot as it was considered to be too controversial by the American distributors and the film was shortened further, to its current length of 90 minutes.
A quarter of the film is believed to have been lost forever.