Theater Owners Ask Movie Studios To Keep Trailers To Just Two Minutes

It used to be that movie trailers were no more than 30 seconds or a minute in length. In recent years, many sneak previews for upcoming movies have stretched to two-and-a-half minutes. That’s fine if it’s just for one, highly anticipated movie, but when a theater runs several long trailers in a row, it pushes a film’s start time (and moviegoers’ patience) to the limit.

That’s why the National Association of Theater Owners (aka “the other NATO”) has released a set of voluntary guidelines aimed at keeping movie trailers short and sweet, or at least to a maximum of two minutes.

“Trailers shall not exceed two minutes in length,” read the guidelines. “Two exemptions per year per distributor, with a maximum length of 3 minutes, based on the theatrical release date of the film being advertised.”

When a NATO member exhibitor plans on cashing in one of those exemptions, it has to notify the Association via e-mail, but only for actual trailers. The length of non-trailer content like behind-the-scenes footage is to be negotiated with individual exhibitors.

Another growing concern with theater owners are trailers and other marketing materials for movies that are not coming out anytime soon. It’s become commonplace to see a teaser preview for a predicted blockbuster more than a year before its release.

So the new guidelines state that theaters should not show trailers for movies that will not be released within 150 days, and that all in-theater marketing materials (posters, cardboard cut-outs, etc.) should not be placed more than 120 days before a scheduled release date. Again, theaters are given only a couple of exemptions a year, about which they are supposed to tell NATO in advance.

NATO is also requiring that studios put targeted release dates on all marketing materials and trailers. The rules don’t specify if things like “Summer 2014” or just simply “2015” would satisfy this condition.

It will be interesting to see whether movie studios abide by these rules or just tell NATO and the exhibitors that they will take whatever trailers they are given or take nothing at all.

[via AV Club]

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  1. SingleMaltGeek says:

    While I like the direction these guidelines are taking, I really don’t mind previews and trailers. Most theaters do a good job of showing trailers for movies that are of a similar genre or style as the main feature. What bugs the hell out of me are commercials for other products, especially those damned soda commercials. I skip over them at home, I sure as hell don’t want to pay to sit and watch them in a theater.

    • mobafett says:

      I agree. I like seeing trailers before the movie, but commercials are not welcome when I’ve paid for my seat. Start the trailer reel early and keep the lights at a level where I can see the seats.

  2. Cara says:

    “So the new guidelines state that theaters should not show trailers for movies that will not be released within 150 days, and that all in-theater marketing materials (posters, cardboard cut-outs, etc.) should not be placed more than 120 days before a scheduled release date. Again, theaters are given only a couple of exemptions a year, about which they are supposed to tell NATO in advance.”

    I think that this is actually a bigger pet peeve of mine than having longer trailers. I worked in Walmart’s arts and crafts department for about a year. I remember getting in “Madagascar” fabric (and art kits, etc) more than a year before the movie actually came out. I remember thinking it must already be out because there was so much merchandise available and being really surprised to find out there was no actual release date set at the time.

    Generally I like knowing that a certain movie is in the works, but I’d rather not be inundated with advertising for the movie until it’s actually coming out soon. Otherwise I get all psyched about an upcoming movie, and have long gotten over my excitement by the time it does come out.

    I’d also like to not see a movie’s entire plot (including climax and ending!) in a preview. Give me a basic idea about what the movie is about, something to get me excited and hooked. Don’t give away the entire plot or else there’s no reason to actually watch the movie!

    • LauraNorthrup says:

      There’s a trailer for the stop-motion movie BoxTrolls that NBC keeps showing during its on-demand programming (on Verizon FiOS, anyway) that I’m so tired of that I’ve started leaving the room as soon as I see that stupid record player. Fast-forwarding is disabled for on-demand programming.

      The movie doesn’t come out until late September. If they keep showing this twice during every program until the fall i’m going to have to do something rash like start paying for DVR service.

  3. JustPassingBy says:

    Last time I went to see a movie there were close to 20 minutes of trailers and ads. It’s bad enough to sit through the lengthy pre-show promotions, but then there’s more after the feature is supposed to begin. People were vocally expressing their displeasure at having to endure it all. I wasn’t the only one to walk out to demand a refund.

  4. furiousd says:

    I don’t like being advertised at, and certainly not when I’ve paid. I think mostly people expect the ‘free with ads” or the “paid and no ads” choice (a reason I haven’t had cable in over 3 years, thank you Netflix/Amazon/Vudu) so when I do end up going to the theatre a few times a year I plan to arrive 20 minutes after the posted start time because I know they don’t mean it. The only time I have to show up early is if I’m seeing a popular movie too soon, but most of the time I’m able to convince others I’m going with to wait a few weeks to avoid the crowds which necessitate arriving early enough to get a good seat.

    • SingleMaltGeek says:

      That, and at some theaters in my area the first show is at 10am. Even on weekends, those shows are mostly empty. But I love mobafett’s idea of starting the 15 minutes of trailers 15 minutes before the scheduled showtime, with the lighting left at a moderate level. (The trailers do look better with the lights low, but people should still be able to find their seats easily without standing by the entrance for too long waiting for their eyes to adjust.)

  5. Saber says:

    How about we keep trailers and get rid of the advertisements that have nothing to do with movies out of our showings? I’ll pay for trailers for future films, but it’s already nigh-robbery to pay for ticket costs without adding advertisements.

    • MarthaGaill says:

      You know, I get that theaters bleed money and ticket prices aren’t enough to cover costs, etc, etc. But I definitely don’t want commercials taking up time during previews. If they showed them and a low sound level before the movie starts when the crappy trivia is going, I would be okay with that. Let the theater make some money back, but not make us site through an extra 15 minutes before the movie starts. Seems fair.

  6. FusioptimaSX says:

    The strange thing, maybe it’s the way I was programmed by the theaters, but within the past couple years I have been seeing trailers for movies that are out in the next months or two vs, the usual 6 months to a year. I guess they would rather generate hype is different ways and more immediate? I guess the internet makes that happen now. I don’t mind trailers as I usually don’t have concrete plans after a movie gets out.

  7. Naskarrkid says:

    In the past few years, I’ve only been going to the $2 movies, and a lot of the times it’s a last minute thing. That being said, the previews usually run past the posted movie start time, so I’m actually on time. Like everyone else, I’d prefer to see only previews, and no ads.