Would your movie-going experience be more enjoyable if trailers were just 30 seconds shorter? Or would that make you be less likely to see an upcoming film?
According to a report from The Hollywood Reporter's Pamela McClintock, movie theaters seem to think that shorter movie trailers would make movie-going a more pleasurable experience for all. But that's already inciting pushback from studios, who relish each second they get to sell their movies—and they're trying to use your love of online trailers to their advantage. McClintock writes that the National Association of Theater Owners wants new rules that will limit movie trailers to two minutes, a full 30 seconds shorter than current trailers. (This would be a voluntary restriction, but theaters could ostracize longer trailers under it.)
Those 30 seconds are considered valuable by studio execs, one of whom told McClintock: "My trailers are 2.5 minutes because that's what we need to send the right message. This could be a paradigm shift. Thirty seconds is a long time." Currently, according to McClintock, the MPAA has voluntary guidelines saying that a trailer must be two and half minutes, but each company gets "one exception a year."
In a time when trailer culture has become a mystifying mix unto itself—movie previews are now equal parts deceptive marketing and overanalyzed Internet art form—studios want more of every tease, and audiences might, too. Not only are there trailers and teaser trailers, but there are teasers for teasers, which seem to work off the theory that trailers have developed into enough of an event to sustain themselves. (Just look at the rapture that followed the Man of Steel trailer.)
But that's largely an online buzz event, as the architecture around YouTube releases presages a big weekend in the actual theater. There is no such thing as the in-theater trailer premiere anymore, really. And movie-goers of various stripes have long thought that the seemingly endless number of trailers playing in theaters themselves can get a bit annoying. The shortened preview proposition, however, appears to be the theater owners' big play to have their trailer cake and eat it, too. THR's McClintock explains that there is growing concern among studio executives that with shorter trailers, some theaters will just play more of them—and that's not necessarily in the interest of studios, who have to pay up, or moviegoers, who just want to see the movie they came to see. Luxury theaters, like the ArcLight theaters with locations around Los Angeles, claim to cater to patrons' interests since they "limit the number of trailers, so your movie begins shortly after the advertised showtime."
The theater owners are lobbying that moviegoers don't want too much information about movies before they see them. According to a YouGov Omnibus survey from April, 49 percent of Americans said trailers gave away movie's best scenes, while only 32 percent said they thought they gave away too much plot. But nearly half also said trailers are what entice them to see a movie in the first place. Basically, Americans can't make up their mind about trailers, and theaters are now trying to use their conflicting emotions to their advantage. The trailer's on you, people.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.