Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Start the Movie Already! Studios, Theaters Spar as Trailers Get Longer and Longer

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Start the Movie Already! Studios, Theaters Spar as Trailers Get Longer and Longer

Article excerpt

As audiences settle into their seats, popcorn and candy in hand, the theater lights go dark in that welcoming reminder of escape intrinsic to the movies. But first, the previews -- four, five, maybe eight trailers for upcoming films. And at 2 minutes, 30 seconds per trailer, on top of in-house advertising, time spent in the theater before a movie starts can reach 20 minutes or more.

In a recent move that could wrest partial marketing control from the Hollywood studios, the National Association of Theatre Owners has recommended new guidelines to film studios that would cap trailers at 2 minutes and limit showing movie trailers more than 120 days before a film's opening date, as first reported by Pamela McClintock in The Hollywood Reporter. Despite repeated requests, both the National Association of Theatre Owners and the Motion Picture Association of America declined to comment for this article.

Under the current voluntary guidelines for movie advertisement, laid out by the MPAA, studios are permitted one trailer per year that exceeds the 2-minute, 30-second cap, such as Warner Bros.' recent trailer for "Man of Steel," opening this week, which runs just over 3 minutes.

The theater owners association, a trade organization representing 30,000 screens in 50 states, claims this controversy stems from its response to disgruntled moviegoers who pay for a film yet are then subjected to a barrage of pre-show advertisements and an increasing number of trailers.

But Richard Stern, owner of the Manor Theater in Squirrel Hill, which belongs to the association, believes the problem could be solved in a simpler fashion.

"If [theaters] are getting push-back from their customers they could just play fewer trailers, like we do at the Manor," he said.

Yet he said this is unlikely because theaters make money from each trailer shown. Large theater chains are paid premiums by studios to place trailers in specific spots before a film, he said. The Manor, specializing in independent films, has no such deals with film companies. It plays no more than three trailers and has no commercial advertising.

"It's a source of revenue for [theaters]," he said. "That's why they play so many trailers."

In an interview, Ms. McClintock agreed, noting that the amount of time audiences sit in a theater might not decrease. Rather, there could be a higher number of shorter trailers, "which means more revenue because studios pay them for a certain amount of the trailers," she said.

While theaters have no legal authority over how studios market their films, "no one wants to be in a position where the theater says, 'I'm not playing your trailer if it's longer than 2 minutes,' " Ms. …

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