The last time my family went to the theater, the ads that ran from the film’s scheduled showtime until the moment the feature presentation began spanned over twenty minutes. Many of the ads were movie trailers, but not all of them. Ads for new cars, smartphones, TV shows, and soft drinks are routine pre-show entertainment while you’re settling into your seat, mentally preparing yourself for temporary phone deprivation, swapping notes with your companions, and consuming your snack too early. Even when it’s ostensibly showtime, the commercial parade isn’t over yet, because a lot of manufacturers want a moment of your time, in exchange for keeping your theater in business.
According to a Hollywood Reporter article this week, the National Assocation of Theater Owners have decided that movie studios are taking advantage of your presence, and it’s all their fault that your time is being wasted. Obviously the owners can’t simply run fewer spots, because then here comes the poorhouse. To that end, NATO members are demanding an amended guideline limiting trailers to a maximum of two minutes, slashed from the current 2½-minute boundary.
We can infer from various statements in that THR article that owners believe this will reduce the length of the pre-show, instead of giving them latitude to run even more ads that eat up the same allotted minutes. They believe that it would be harder for shorter trailers to give away the entire movie, apparently forgetting that most romantic comedies can be boiled down to their primal essence in twelve seconds flat. They seem to think the current limit is a recent abuse of creative power, somehow unaware that trailers in the ’40s and other nostalgic decades could occasionally run well past the three-minute mark, sometimes spooling entire scenes instead of mere quick-cut snippets.