National Association of Theater Owners Want Shorter Movie Trailers and Shorter Marketing Windows

     May 29, 2013


The National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) are oblivious to the scourge of shitty projection and people texting during movie theaters, but they’re feeling the need to step-up and ask for shorter movie trailers.  According to /Film, NATO is responding to consumer complaints about the trailers being too long and showing too much of the movie.  I’ve actually clocked it, and it takes about 10-15 minutes for all of the trailers to play.  Personally, I don’t mind.  It gives people more time to make it to the movie without interrupting the feature.  What really needs to be killed is shit like Regal Cinemas’ “Firstlook” where we’re informed about the latest garbage on ABC Family.

Hit the jump for what NATO is asking from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which also includes a shorter window for marketing campaigns.

movie-theater-auditorium/Film reports that NATO’s demand for shorter trailers is two-fold.  Right now, trailers can run at a maximum of 2.5 minutes with one exception per year for each studio.  NATO would like to cut that number down to two minutes, although there would still be no limit on how many trailers could be played before a movie.  Personally, it actually feels longer when you watch more trailers rather than a few of 2.5-minute trailers.  Consumers are also complaining that trailers show too much, but as /Film points out, you can just as easily ruin a movie in two minutes as you can in two-and-a-half minutes.  That’s a burden that falls on the studio, and there’s nothing NATO or audiences can do about it.

It’s possible that the MPAA might meet the request for shorter trailers, but there’s going to be far more tension when it comes to NATO’s other request for a shorter marketing window.  With a few exceptions, NATO wants no marketing for films until four months before the release date.  They also want the release date on every piece of marketing.  In a crowded marketplace of blockbusters, and where smaller films could certainly use a bit more lead-time, the studios are less than pleased with this guideline.  While I’m not a huge fan of the marketing blitz, I can understand raising awareness so that people will put movies on their radar.

While participation would be voluntary, studios are reportedly worried that theaters would refuse to show their movies if they didn’t meet this guidelines.  I say studios should call NATO’s bluff.  As movie tickets become more expensive, the theater-going experience becomes more wretched, and the home entertainment window becomes shorter, audiences are looking for reasons to stay home.  Does NATO really think it’s in their best interest to offer fewer movies at the multiplex?  And if a studio releases a poster or a trailer six months before release instead of four, is that really worth a standoff?


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  • jack

    first time i ever agree with you goldberg….kill first look

  • Grayden

    If theaters refuse to show a film, then people won’t go there anymore, unless it’s their only theater, and that only hurts the theater’s business, and the film business as a whole. Really not in any position to demand anything given the ticket prices they charge. Besides, the people complaining are likely the average filmgoer who feels “seeing too much” ruins a film and won’t go see it. Die hard movie buffs will still go see a film regardless. Theaters need to quit being such whiny bitches and just do what they are there to do: show movies.

  • bydavidrosen

    i don’t get why we’re killing first look? it’s either a blank screen, ads for crappy local businesses, or first look… i’d rather first look. and i don’t think there should ever be more than 10 minutes of previews. if a movie say its starts at 7:30pm it should be starting by 7:40pm at the latest.

    • Sean Chandler

      In the past movie theaters have run trivia and things of that nature. First Look does a remarkable job of covering TV shows and movies I have absolutely no interest in at all.

    • rundmc1981

      I hate “First Look”, “The Twenty” or whatever every chain calls it. Either you’re sitting in the dark to the latest Taylor Swift song staring at the same 3 trivia questions you saw last time which all have the answer of Jack Nicholson or you’re going through an awkward silence with other theatergoers.

      Up in NYC at some of the best non-chain theaters (Nitehawk Cinema) they program their own preshow entertainment that showcases upcoming bookings, alternative fare, and the like all done with their particular style that targets their audience (hipsters, experienced audiences): think Alamo Drafthouse with style. I like that it changes weekly and I never see an ad for the new Planter’s peanut flavor or the newest Pontiac, while it’s not in-your-face enough to interfere with conversation.

      Theaters won’t do this because they don’t want to burn their bridges with studios that push the product. Theaters should be working more on creating a better experience rather than thinking that policing the trailers really will make that much of a difference. I actually think the trailers are the best part of most Hollywood movies.

  • Anthonyg1500

    I work in a theater and people ridiculous. When they show up a half hour late and I tell them previews are 10 minutes and they flip out because its too short. And when they’re on time and I say its 10 minutes for previews they flip out because its too long. Bottom line theres no pleasing anyone.

  • Wilsonvolleyball

    The trailers are too long? Are the people complaining about too long trailers the same people who can’t focus their attention for 90 minutes without checking their bright-as-day smartphone in the dark theater? I’d actually prefer cinemeas handling these things like theaters, closing the doors after the announced time, having a no-cell phone rule and enforcing it, too.
    Of course, from a economical point of view, you want all the paying customers, even the annying ones, but don’t pretend you’re out to improve the enjoyment of the customers, because then you’d have to do some other things, too.

  • uxpxytt

    Can’t believe I agree with Matt.

  • Kale

    Wow, there’s a group of people that cares about trailers. First off, I agree with Matt on first look. When that’s on, I play temple run until they dim the lights. Second off, theaters are at the mercy of studios, because they deliver them the product that they need to keep their businesses running (that’s like a baby refusing breast milk, because it tastes alcohol in it, and wants the mother stop; even though it personally knows, it still needs the milk.). Third and last, if they think cutting trailers will solve all of their problems, then they will be dead by the end of the decade.

  • Tom


  • Still a fan

    How about they work out a better distribution deal with studios so theaters can lower ticket prices so more people can actually GO to the movies? They may be getting record breaking BoxOffice numbers, but that’s only due to rising ticket costs, NOT butts in seats. I have no trouble getting to movies, I love the theater, see an average of 3 a month minimum, however, I have family members that would rather watch a crap quality cam recorded copy they got off the internet and claim they “saw the movie” than pay to go see it.

    • Nmaster

      as the years go by, you’ll start to see a lot more ppl staying in to watch crap quality or just one of thousands of films they’ve never seen – instead of paying over the (increasing) price…

      and the studios will fight tooth and nail to recuperate the money (by any means necessary) with or without the theaters – home releases cut out the middle man.

      • rundmc1981

        What you’re forgetting though is that the studios still control the product by controlling the lengths of product windows. Yes, the windows are shrinking (from 6 months to home video to now 2 months, if even, considering VoD). But studios still do a great job of controlling the piracy of their content (outside of screening copies). They’re already fighting tooth and nail.

        Thing is, people will always go to the theaters. Always. Even if it’s to see “The Goonies”, Duck Soup” played to a live band, or a new restored print of “Seven Samurai”. We’ve got over 110 years of cinema to go on, and so many incredible works of art in the backlog that are continually being restored and “going digital”. That said, prices are getting to a tipping point. 4 people going to see a 3D film on a Saturday night for $71 without concessions – which theaters make 100% of – is ridiculous. When theaters will learn to stop allowing studios to raise prices – albeit for inferior technology or inflation – so it won’t inevitably affect their concession sales, they will be making money again. When someone is spending a lot on tickets, subconsciously they’re going to want to even out the financial experience, which means cutting back on concessions either by sneaking cheaper food in or not getting as much or any at all at the concession stand. The theaters that keep their prices lower than their competition make more in concessions, which has the highest profit margins. Sorry the novel.

      • Nmaster

        oh yeah i agree with you, def. need for cinemas – at the very least good for dates, get together’s, family outings (not big on this one as i believe children should be experiencing the great outdoors while it still exists)…

        But what about films like ‘the watch’ which went straight to VOD; and will theaters be able to fight the studios, in the long run – look at the radio! In my opinion, it looks like it’ll be, all about advancing home system/games/entertainment hubs

      • Nmaster

        oh yeah i agree with you, def. need for cinemas – at the very least good for dates, get together’s, family outings (not big on this one as i believe children should be experiencing the great outdoors while it still exists)…

        But what about films like ‘the watch’ which went straight to VOD; and will theaters be able to fight the studios, in the long run – look at the radio! In my opinion, it looks like it’ll be, all about advancing home system/games/entertainment hubs

      • rundmc1981

        I’m not sure what you mean about “The Watch”. It wasn’t VOD (video on demand) the same day. Studios won’t do that right now – or in the near future. It made $68.2MM worldwide and $12.7MM on its opening weekend. This was below expectations, but it was a tough genre film by a first-time feature director with a big cast that unluckily had a plot and an original title (Neighborhood Watch) that inevitably linked it to the Trayvon Martin case – which made the studio scrap the title, release date, and marketing campaign. It came out on home video not 2-3 months after probably because it opened so poorly.

        I agree with you about game systems/entertainment hubs, but I think that’s what theaters are or will be. There’s only 2 places in every community that the public can gather and that’s churches and theaters. As TV grows more popular, you’ll see more streaming content and premiere parties at theaters (Mad Men, Breaking Bad, etc.), and anything else that people would be willing to watch. My point is that there will always be a need for theaters because there’s something about watching something within an audience – especially if it’s an enjoyable, safe environment with good food with good prices. Home will always be cheaper, but even if you’re lucky enough to have a 40′ screen with 2K-4K projector, you’re still going to be watching that by yourself – and that gets old fast when you’re the only one laughing at how bad “After Earth” is.

  • Guest

    I don’t care about the ‘max 2 minutes’ for trailers request, but not having any promotion for a movie untill 4 months before it’s release date is completely ridiculous. You want to be able to show trailers for your summer blockbusters before the christmas blockbusters, and vice versa. If NATO’s too stupid to understand that they’re probably not worth listening to.

  • Smelly fishfingers

    In the uk my annoyance is 30 mins of adverts for tampons cars and washing powder then ben and jerrys movie quiz which is awful then after every advert is a 5 sec advert for the advert company…then 2-3 trailers max then more adverts about piracy film board certification and then more adverts then the movie. I would actually like more trailers

  • Chris

    How about this: When the showtime is 7:00 pm, start the actual movie at 7:00 pm. Play as many stupid trailers, at any length, up until that point. I don’t care. But when the “showtime” is advertised at 7:00 pm and the actual movie doesn’t start until 7:25, it is really lame.

    Also, maybe line theater walls in lead so that cell phone signals can’t get through.

    • NathanArizona

      okay but you will always have those people wandering into a dark theater while the trailers are playing, even sometimes after the movie has started, blocking people’s view and asking if that seat is taken, ruining the experience for everyone else because they weren’t on time. The trailers are there to accommodate those drag-ass people. You put trailers before the scheduled start time and everyone is going to suffer for it.

      • Chris

        Lock their asses out after 5 minutes into the movie. They can be first in line for the next one.

      • NathanArizona


    • rundmc1981

      Good luck with lining the walls with cellphone signal deterrents. Why not just police the theater from the beginning like Alamo Drafthouse and stay by it? If every theater had a strict policy, people who don’t agree with it, would go somewhere else and the (many) people that understand and respect it, will continue going to the theater. As a NYC theatergoer, most intelligent audiences understand – as you should paying $14/ticket.

      Playing trailers before a movie’s start time would be confusing because most people that have lived more than 5 years as an adult understand there’s 10-15 minutes of trailers before a movie. If you don’t like it, come 10 minutes into a movies start time.

      I guarantee you that a movie’s feature doesn’t start 25 mins after its advertised time, unless that advertised is incorrect. Typically, most theaters won’t have more than 15 mins worth of trailers (or 6-7 trailers with varying lengths). If you’re attending a screening with 25 minutes of trailers, you need to report them to their district office or NATO because they’re cutting down their screen-time for more showings, which is the ultimate goal.

      • Chris

        I used that example of 25 minutes because I literally just sat through it at a movie theater in Scottsdale, AZ. The feature started 25 minutes after the advertised time. (Of course the previews didn’t start until 10 minutes or so after the advertised time, had to get through First Look, of course, before those could roll).

        I am not familiar with the Alamo Drafthouse policies, but they sound awesome. I am surrounded by theaters that tend to have reserved seating, so I think that naturally lets people think they can show up a little later.

  • King of the Desert

    Of course, let’s not talk about the studios demanding that ticket prices be raised or else they won’t give you the product. My company didn’t play The Watch because the studio demanded we raise ticket prices and the company stood their ground. Don’t talk about the bad things being done by the studio though.

    • rundmc1981

      Studios can try and raise the prices as much as they want – but if NATO/theaters give in, that’s when you should be worried. The “digital transition” that will fully happen over the next few months will mean no more high shipping costs of film prints, and who do you think benefits most from the transition? A: studios. They can now control their product like never before, save on exhibition costs by not having to have more film prints printed and not shipping said prints. They have never had this much control over their product. Theaters can do whatever they want and if they are acting in a way that jeopardizes their relationship with their audience whom they know better than the studios, than they should be held responsible. To think that theaters have no hand or responsibility in the ticket prices being raised is silly – especially when the only threat studios have is by not giving you the next Ben Stiller or Adam Sandler film. When they want to open their next film on 4000 screens, they’ll come calling. If they don’t, another studio will. There’s enough product in the landscape of things to not piss off your paying customers to please Caesar.

  • grapes9h5

    I actually love all of Goldberg’s opinions here, and agree with them all. NATO is full of it with these demands. Try killing Firstlook first.

  • Sean Chandler

    It’s like I’m in a episode of the Twilight Zone where I find myself agreeing with Matt Goldberg and appreciating his snark.

  • donald mcronald

    as matt said, the projection issues are far worse than the first look or the long trailers. atlantic station is supposed to be atlanta’s flagship theatre. however, the picture in the large screen “premium” auditoriums (imax/rpx) is typically so dim due to the throw distance being too long for the projector & bulb that’s run well over on hours that you’re better off aiming for a 2d showing in a smaller house. when you add in the 3d polarizers and glasses you’re left with such a muddy mess that it’s practically impossible to become immersed in a movie.

    …trailer spoilers are getting fucking ridiculous though

    • rundmc1981

      I wonder what projectors they use. That size auditorium should have no less than a 4K projector and it probably isn’t Sony knowing how Regal likes to skimp on their equipment costs.

      • donald mcronald

        in the standard houses they’re mostly sony 4k’s. pretty sure the imax is two barcos with “imax armor.” there was also an old nec in the house that ended up as the rpx (#6), but not sure if they put in a new projector there or not.

        the picture and sound would be infinitely better if they didn’t run bulbs well over there hours (since digital bulbs are so expensive, burn brighter/faster) and didn’t just run skeleton crews whose only obligation is to keep some sort of picture on screen rather than an exceptional presentation.

      • rundmc1981

        Thanks for the insight, Donald. Yes, my theater has the same practice of extending bulbs way past their recommendations, not to mention inferior, less expensive bulbs. I know some chains have turned down the brightness on bulbs to extend the life of said bulbs, which cheats the consumer especially during 3D showings where it’s already dimmer because of the lens.

  • Calderon

    Instead of running first look or a bunch of trailers for mostly mediocre movies, why not run some short serials, silent movies, or animation, like back in the old days? Those seem to be quite entertaining, with exquisite (classical) soundtracks.

    • Nmaster

      dude, what world are you living in…

      because I’d seriously love to go there!

    • rundmc1981

      Come up to NYC. Indie/art-houses do that. I’m not sure what Landmark is doing preshow, but I know the Angelika (a part of the Reading Int’l brand) does that before the show. Film Forum does short films. Nitehawk, which is one of the best, takes great clips to advertise the film, along with kitschy short films and some other things. Alamo Drafthouse should be opening in NYC late-2013, which should up the bar on the NYC experience, at least from the cineplexes. They’re still the only ones running these preshow advertising experiences because they don’t know how to roll out the dine-in experience and make the big bucks in alcohol. Popcorn is child’s play these days, in terms of concession revenue.

  • Alex Hajna

    It’s not like trailers have to be 2.5 minutes. Some trailers are just over a minute long. But the studios decide how long the trailer should be, based on how much they think they have to show in order to sell the movie to you.

    For example, the first Man of Steel trailer was 1 minute long. Yeah, it had me somewhat interested, but it told me nothing about the movie, other than that it was a Superman movie, and it was gonna be different than any other Superman movie we’ve ever seen.

    The full trailer is 2.5 minutes long, and is one of the best trailers I’ve ever seen. It got me super excited for a movie that I really didn’t care much about, based on the first trailer and what I’d read about it beforehand. And it doesn’t tell me anything about the plot. It tells me what the tone and the theme of the movie will be, but I do not feel like I’ve seen the whole movie after watching a fraction of a fraction of it. Sure, there are trailers that give away the whole movie (i.e., The Call, Fast & Furious 6), but that’s a rarity.

    The problem doesn’t lie within the length of the trailer itself. There are other factors to consider. For example, they should have stopped their marketing at the third Man of Steel trailer (the example I gave above). Instead, they released a fourth and final trailer, giving away too much of the plot.

    So what NATO should do is come up with a set of guidelines, rather than setting one standard. Factor in the following two things when creating trailers:

    (1) Length of the film

    (2) Hype surrounding the film

    Regarding the length, I think a good rule of thumb would be 1 minute of trailer for every 1 hour of movie. If the film is 2 hours, your trailer should be no longer than 2 minutes MAX. If you’re movie is 2hrs 35mins, your trailer should only be about 2.5 minutes long.

    Regarding the hype, I think there should only be a certain amount of trailers released for each movie, based on the demand. For example, The Dark Knight Rises. That movie is easily the biggest movie of the century, as far as excitement and demand goes. They released a teaser trailer, 2 theatrical trailers, and a fourth trailer, sponsored by Verizon. That, I think, was reasonable. First of all, it was a long movie (2hrs 50mins). Second, the hype was through the roof, and people wanted those trailers.

    However, if your movie is a small action movie, like Now You See Me — a movie whose trailer really intrigued me — there’s only need for one, maybe two trailers. I really enjoyed the first trailer (the one I linked to), but the second one gave a little too much away, so they probably should’ve stuck with the one trailer, which was a decent length, and fit the pacing of the movie well. There are other ways to market a movie, besides trailers. Now You See Me realizes that, too, because they also released a part of the opening scene, which establishes the characters and gives you a feel for the movie, but doesn’t give anything about the plot away. If they’d just released that, and not the second trailer, I think that would’ve been perfect.

    What it comes down to is this: There’s other things that both sides — NATO and the marketing teams — need to consider. The length of the trailer should depend on the length of the film, and how many trailers are released should depend on how much hype is surrounding the film.

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