Historically, a 35 mm. film reel has meant the amount of 35 mm. film that is wound on one standard reel or is stored in one standard film can designed to accommodate up to 1,000 feet of film.  The use of the term "reel" as a unit of measurement for 35 mm. film is a standard industry term.  At the regular 35 mm. sound film projection speed of 90 feet per minute, projecting one reel takes about 10 minutes.  Therefore, a "2-reeler" would be a short film on two 1,000-foot reels running about 20 minutes.

Currently, 35 mm. films are generally stored on 2,000-foot reels and, to a lesser extent, 3,000-foot and 1,000-foot reels.  Often, the 1,000-foot reel standard is noted on these larger reels (e.g., 1A, 1B for the first 2,000-foot reel).  To maintain the 1,000-foot unit concept, 35 mm. film stored on reels holding up to 2,000 feet of film are sometimes referred to as "double reels."  Similarly, reels holding up to 3,000 feet may be referred to as "triple reels."  For some archives, it has remained standard to relate the original length of a work in 1,000-foot reels to the number of physical units (reels) on which it is currently stored.

300 ## $a 12 film reels of 12 on 6 (126 min., 11,354 ft.) : $b sd., b&w ; $c 35 mm. $3 dupe neg.

For all other film gauges, there is no single standardized reel size that corresponds to the 1,000-foot size standard in 35 mm.  For example, for 16 mm., there are at least four frequently used sizes:  400-foot, 800-foot, 1,200-foot, and 1,600-foot reels.

See also:

5B3.  Number of units in a complete work

5B.  Extent of work and specific material designation

5.  Physical Description Area