Commercials

So I finally went to see Avengers. It was pretty good. Cabin in the Woods was better. I think those two are the only movies I've seen in a theatre in at least a year, maybe two.

But, holy hell, there were twenty-five minutes of trailers before the movie started, beginning at the posted show time. Not even counting the (presumed) half hour of non-movie commercials before show time, which I missed.

Is 25 minutes the new normal? I remember being aghast when 15 became the new normal from 10, which seems like it wasn't that long ago.

With that many commercials -- about 1/5th of the running time of the movie itself -- why am I expected to pay admission too? I understood that my eyeballs were the product in this sale.

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24 Responses:

  1. pavel_lishin says:

    Maybe I'm a weirdo, but I love trailers. I always try to show up in time to catch them, and I watch them at the various trailer sites around the web, too.

    • Barry Kelly says:

      If I watch a trailer, I find it obviates my need to watch the movie altogether. Since I enjoy watching movies, I try to avoid them.

  2. Brian B says:

    They charge admission because they don't get revenue directly from trailers; it comes indirectly from your seeing the promo for Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and deciding to come back in a few weeks to buy another ticket.

    The pre-trailer ads, as you note, aim to get you to spend money someplace besides the theater, but most people don't show up in time for them anyway.

    At some point the trailers become self-defeating, not only from sensory overload but because without them the theater could squeeze in another showing of the film. Presumably they have algorithms for finding the sweet spots.

    • jwz says:

      I seriously doubt that movie theatres are not charging the studios for trailer placement.

      • Brian B says:

        I wouldn't know, but in any case the trailer only makes sense if it aims to persuade you to consume something you pay for; if your next trip to the theater is also free, then the trailers aren't doing anyone any good and no one would pay anyone for the pleasure of showing them. That $207m opening-weekend gross didn't come from popcorn and toys action figures.

        • jwz says:

          Even if your guess is correct, their inability to haggle would be... not my problem.

          Anyway, I suppose you are trying to intentionally miss my point, which is that the media companies have by and large set up this world where as long as I'm the commerical-watching product, sitting through that crap is my "payment". But not in the case of movies, where they used to just charge admission, but now they not only charge admission but also expect you to sit through even more ads than television does.

          They're purportedly about to try and do the same kind of double-dipping with Hulu, because apparently they think that there is no indignity so irritating that it will ever cause their customer to say, "Fuck this, I can actually get all this crap for free."

          • Brian B says:

            Oh, I got your point and agree with it. Just disagree with your assessment of the economics of a free, ad-supported model for movie theaters.

          • Russell Borogove says:

            I'm not sure why in-theater trailers don't bother me as much as other ads. Maybe it's because they are fairly specific demographically - there's at least some chance that someone going to see The Avengers also wants to see Prometheus, and a big screen trailer has some entertainment & informational value on its own. The ads are at least for a known-relevant product category, which is rarely true of the ads on broadcast TV or Hulu.

            Speaking of Hulu's double-dipping: I haven't confirmed this, but I saw someone complaining that Pandora has also started playing ads in the iPhone app for users with paid accounts. So the norm that it's either free or it's adverted seems to be going away even if we consider movie trailers a special case.

            • Marcello says:

              Agreed.

              Anyway consider you lucky, on sunday i went to see the avengers too, they had 25 minutes of ads starting at the posted show time, then 15 minutes of trailers. And then a 10 minutes break in the middle of the movie.

              You being the product isn't enough anymore, they want you to pay dearly to be their product.

              • pavel_lishin says:

                > And then a 10 minutes break in the middle of the movie.

                What. Seriously? Is the movie incredibly long or something? I wish The Lord of the Rings movies had a break - I ended up bringing a packed lunch to the second one, having learned my lesson from the first - but if I wanted to be jarred out of my movie-going experience, I'd just pirate it at home and let the cats do it for me.

                • Marcello says:

                  at 143 minutes it is on the long-ish side (the Two Towers was 180 minutes), especially if you add 40 minutes of ads and traliers.

              • nooj says:

                > And then a 10 minute break in the middle of the movie.

                Where did this happen? And how do you manage the logistics for this? Pick one of the built-in optional commercial breaks, fade to black, lift the lights, and let people stretch for a bit and awkwardly small-talk with their neighbor? Then flash the lights in the hallway like you're at an opera? Ten minutes doesn't sound like enough time for the queue in the ladies' room to finish.

    • Your last paragraph hit it. The last time I as a movie (a few months ago) there were 25 minutes of previews. I remember thinking during at least three, and maybe more, that I want to see that movie. But after that many previews, I couldn't remember ANY of them.

      So yeah, great job there move companies.

      • Brian B says:

        I counted four trailers before The Avengers but could only remember what two of them were until this thread reminded me of a third. One of those two (Batman III) I was going to see anyway, so they were mostly wasted on me too.

  3. Lun Esex says:

    Movie trailers/commercials are actually the one type of ad on TV that I wouldn't mind occasionally watching instead of skipping over.

    ...if I wasn't already at the point where I've stopped watching media in any form which actually still requires skipping over the commercials (much less sitting through them).

    Evolution of finger action for media consumption:

    Finger on TV remote "Mute" button --> Finger on VCR FFWD button --> Finger on DVD player "Play" button --> Finger on mouse button, clicking on web page embedded video "Play" button --> Finger on mouse button, clicking on "Download."

  4. tragic0mic says:

    Here in Italy 20 to 25 minutes of advertising and trailers before the movie have become such a standard since some years along with the spread of bigger cinemas and multiplexes.

    BTW I really like your articles ;)

    • nooj says:

      What are your ticket prices?

      • tragic0mic says:

        3D mainstream movie (i.e.: the avengers): €13 = $16.60
        Non-3D mainstream movie (i.e.: american pie): €9.50 = $12.15

        I think these prices are quite high D:
        And what about american prices?

        • nooj says:

          I'll let someone else weigh in with the American prices, as I consistently misremember. Your prices sound like what I would expect to spend without a discount. (Though I'm sure NY regularly sees $20 = €16 tickets.)

          And yes, I think Italian prices are quite high considering the Itally's Berlusconi-era economy.

          • tragic0mic says:

            These prices are however too high because the other services provided by the theaters (seats, sound quality, location, restaurants/fast foods, etc.) are generally horrific. And the problems of the italian economy aren't due to Berlusconi. They are due to italians. Trust me, I'm italian :)

  5. Dan says:

    I had maybe 10 minutes of trailers before the showing I caught, which seemed a good balance between "oh, maybe some cool new movies coming up" and "will you just start the damn movie." Only one trailer looked great: Brave. Only one looked like a maybe: Battleship. Everything else looked pretty dull, or something I have no interest in (like Prometheus).

    Commercials running before movies enrages me like few other things (considering the costs of going to movies) and I do everything in my power to miss that part of the "movie theater experience", along with never buying anythng other than a ticket, never going at night, and never going to any movie on opening weekend.

    Are you a comic book fan? I literally said "Oh shit" out loud at the end scene (before the main credits) of The Avengers.

  6. This is why I prefer the Curzon cinemas in London - in my experience they hardly play anything other than the film. If I end up at one of the large multiplexes, I never get there less than twenty minutes after show time. I'm pretty sure if a cinema put an ad-break in the middle of the film I'd just walk out.

  7. Sheilagh says:

    Have you replenished your tolerance for permit-hunting agony? You could franchise Alamo Drafthouse: DNA ... your sense of what wonky related clips from elder movies deserve to be shown before a movie would fit right in with the goodness that Tim League provides us here in Austin. I don't recall ever seeing commercials (or 25 minutes of trailers) before movies, there, unless you count ads for other events coming up at local Drafthouse locations (like the Buffy sing along, or an 80s cheesey movie retrospective, and such).

    LoTR? Clips from the rotoscoped movies! Any Jackie Chan movie gets pre-movie clips from classics like Drunken Master II or "how to learn to cuss in Chinese" education films. Etc. You've already got a kitchen and serve booze, and I'm sure you'd find ...interesting... ways to punish people who text during movies, so you're all set for the primo Drafthouse offering...

    • nooj says:

      Yeah, the Alamo is good stuff. I always show up super early in order not to miss whatever awesome they show instead of commercials. Before T3, they aired the original trailer for The Terminator. And at SX this year, they created the very cute "How not to be lame at SXSW" series, along with Danny DeVito saying he'd cut your tongue out if you talked during the movie.

      They do show an occasional commercial from the forties, for shock value. You know, like the one for White Lead: "It is a safe rule to follow: 'the higher the lead content, the better the paint.' "

      Sadly, the $5 shakes are $7 now. And everyone else's shakes are pretty fuckin' good, too.