I don’t know how long it’s been de rigeur for U.S. theatres to run about 20 minutes worth of trailers and ads before a film. I seem to recall that the norm was more like 10 to 12 minutes a decade ago. I know that two and half years ago I linked to Marshall Fine‘s complaint about having been subjected to 20 minutes’ worth of ads and trailers at a New York-area AMC theatre. I reported in the same piece that I sat through 27 minutes worth of trailers and consumer ads before seeing Very Bad Trip 2 at the Pathe Wepler in Paris.
The latest assessment is contained in a just-posted Hollywood Reporter story about exhibitors caling for shorter trailers. Reporter Pamela McClintock states that “it’s not uncommon for many circuits to play seven or eight trailers before a film [which] translates to 17.5 minutes to 20 minutes, on top of in-house advertising.”
Trailers are aimed at the lowest common denominator, which is why they’re generally artless, numbing and often depressing. (Intriguing trailers pop up but very infrequently.) Run-of-the-mill trailers mainly convince you not to see a film rather than vice versa. By the time you’re sat through 20 minutes of trailer torture you’re much less open and receptive to whatever the feature may hold. And you’re paying for this. You’re paying $12 to $15 a head to be turned off and numbed out.
This on top of texters, crying babies, smelly hot dogs and nachos, noisy candy wrappers, sporadic shooter rage, bellowing psychopaths and absent or ineffectual managers…this is another reason why mainstream commercial theatres are the epicenter of movie-watching lethargy these days.
There are, of course, welcome exceptions but in my book the best-to-worst film venues are as follows: (a) elite film festivals, (b) professional screening rooms, (c) high-end commercial venues (i.e., L.A.’s Arclight in Hollywood, Sherman Oaks or PLaya del Rey, Manhattan’s Zeigfeld on 54th and Sunshine Cinemas on Houston), (d) VOD at home, (e) Bluray viewings at home, (f) Vudu/Netflix/Hulu at home, (g) iPad/Macbook Pro/iPhone viewings, (h) commercial theatres that are heavily patronized by rube-class primitives (i.e., the notorious Leows 42nd Street and 34th Street plexes, for starters) and (i) mini-screen viewings on commercial airlines. (I’m obviously ignoring basic cable options that happen five or six months after initial release.)
This is what it’s come to. Out of nine options, mainstream commercial cinemas rank eighth. They used to be the only option for decades. They were the whole magilla. Now they’re the Greyhound Bus/Trailways option — the option that you know is likely to be unpleasant due to several factors, and that you’re going to want to take a shower after you return home.