There’s nothing new under the sun in the movie business: Prices keep rising and theaters keep exploiting their captive audiences by subjecting them to more commercials and previews than ever.
Reporters recently conducting an unscientific study for The Wall Street Journal typically found theaters screening 18 to 19 minutes’ worth of previews prior to the main attraction. In one case, involving a New York City theater, the previews went on for 25 minutes!
Previews, or trailers as the industry calls them, are just ads, of course — scenes from movies that are due out soon or playing on another screen in the cineplex. Showing two or three after a movie’s advertised starting time is reasonable to allow audiences extra time to find seats and get settled before the main attraction, and many movie-goers like watching them. But when there’s six or seven of them, and they drag on for more than 15 minutes, the experience can be mind-numbing. Who can keep track of that many, anyway?
It’s bad enough that theaters have taken to screening 25 minutes’ worth of ads, similar or identical to those shown on television, prior to their movies’ appointed starting times. Audiences can choose to skip those by lingering in the mall a little longer before buying tickets, or hanging out in the lobby. But one can never be sure how many previews there will be, and showing up past the appointed screening time, when the lights are down and the theater is crowded, can make finding seats difficult. So moviegoers feel obligated to arrive as close to the appointed time as they can, and then all they can do — have to do — is wait.
It hardly seems fair to make someone rush dinner, maybe pay a babysitter, or simply waste their precious time — not to mention paying top dollar for the “privilege.”