Have you ever been in a situation in the past, however young you might be, where you were running late to the movie theater and knew you were going to miss some of the trailers? You would be estimating the amount of minutes these previews normally played and would reassure everyone that by the time you got through the torrential rain, bought your tickets and got to your seats, you wouldn’t have missed the beginning of your movie. But deep down inside – and especially if the internet had yet to see the light of day which means you could only see trailers in a movie theater – you would feel deeply disappointed about missing the trailers.
Movie trailers are an embodiment of storytelling in its simplest, shortest and yet often most compelling form. We never get tired of them and when a really great one hits the silver screen, we can recite it in our minds a million times over. What a marketing textbook will define as an abbreviated sales pitch for coming attractions fails to capture the most important element of trailers which is the sense of mystery and wonder it instills when it comes to features we barely even heard of. We call them teaser trailers because we take great pleasure in having our imaginations teased, and most moviegoers will agree that these trailers are as complimentary to their moviegoing experience as ketchup would be to fries.
Back then, the length of time reserved to movie trailers would rarely exceed the ten minute mark. We would get two, maybe three previews to chew on and the feature presentation would roll in right away. As you might have experienced if you’ve been to a multiplex in recent years, such good old days are long gone and show no signs of ever coming back. According to an article in The Hollywood Reporter last month, theater owners are apparently being inundated with complaints from the public that twenty minutes of previews is overbearing and completely unacceptable. Thus, they felt they had no other choice but to ask studios to reduce the length of their trailers down to two minutes in order to accommodate the moviegoing public’s dismay.
Well, pardon my French if you would be so kind but that is a prodigious stack of ‘caca de boeuf’ if I ever smelled one.
We’ve been subjected to movie trailers before movies for decades so how could the complaints about their length be possibly rolling in now? Maybe I’d better hit you with that one again because it is delightfully absurd: The National Association of Theater Owners is attempting to single out a practice they’ve encompassed in their process for as long as they’ve been in business as an alarming issue that calls for studios to step back. Well, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and if it is broke, that means something must have changed. Oh, I know! I know! It’s the twelve to fifteen minutes of car and shampoo commercials that you’re shoving down our throats before the trailers even if we paid our hard-earned money to rent ourselves a seat in your theater.
Theoretically, the concept is tremendously flawed to begin with. Just imagine you’re at a music concert for an artist you’ve been waiting to see for months. Suddenly the lights go down and you can hear a sense of euphoria in the crowd. Smoke comes out from each side of the stage and a giant screen scrolls down. Perhaps an introductory video about the artist’s career? No, it’s a car commercial from Mazda. Zoom Zoom or whatever. Now let’s be rational for a second – these concerts are tremendously expensive to put together and the artist probably retains a large percentage of the ticket sales so they probably had Mazda pay the big bucks as a major sponsor. Okay, another commercial. That one’s for Lexus. The pursuit of whatever. And another commercial. And another one. And one more, probably the last one? Nope, another one. Considering you’ve paid good money to be at that concert and that you’re being advertised at the moment you were excited for the concert to begin, how would that make you feel?
Twenty minutes of previews before a movie starts is indeed ridiculous and by requesting for trailers to be cut down by 30 seconds, theater owners might be simply plotting to throw more car commercials at us. Making recommendations and trying find a way to cut back on that time is commendable, but pointing fingers at movie trailers and criticizing their very nature after all these years is a preposterous approach to the situation. If AMC, Regal, Cinemark, and Cineplex were so kind to accommodate our frustration, I invite them to pass out a survey to their patrons and see whether they would prefer to A) cut back on movie trailers or B) cut back on advertisements. If they could also proceed to provide us with the names of the one of two individuals who decided to go with A), we’ll be more than happy to conveniently meet them behind the theater after the movie and put some sense into them.
Let’s face it: Commercials before movie trailers will carry on. People will keep sitting through them and suffer in silence. For me personally, being passively exposed to an endless stream of adverts while sipping on my flavored fountain coke and browsing my smart phone reminds me of my own death. I look around the theater at times and I have that Orwellian sense that others also secretly share my sense of resentment. From the advertising company’s standpoint, seducing us in that setting is already a lost battle. Give us something funny and we won’t laugh. Give us something flashy and we won’t stare. Give us something hypocritical and we’ll even make snarks. It’s bad enough that one time a cat fight between two girl friends was erupting in the back row and listening to them bickering about respect and “stabbing your best girl in the back” lightened me up during those ads. It wasn’t something I had asked to be exposed to either, but at least it was unexpected and it felt real.
Now more than ever, the recurrent and ever-increasing conundrum about old-school “presentation-style” advertising is that we are no longer interested in seeing it and, most importantly, we no longer feel that we should be subjected to it. We don’t want products shown to us anymore because we consider that companies should interact with us individually if they truly want our business. Perhaps times are changing or perhaps the new generation is just that special. The fact still remains that when we go to the movies, we sit down and silently tolerate the numerous commercials that defile before our eyes.
What the advertisers currently purchasing these expensive spots need to ask themselves at this point is: Do they want us to consider purchasing their brands, or do they want us to tolerate them until they go away? – The Sleepy Skunk