Getty / Antonio_Diaz
Via The Hollywood Reporter comes the less-than-welcome news that two of America’s biggest corporate theater chains, Regal Cinemas and Cinemark Theaters—which operates the Century Theatres chain in Portland—are switching up how they’re showing paid advertisements before movies. Ads at those chains, which previously ran before a film’s showtime, will now start at the film’s showtime, then be followed by trailers. And even after the trailers have begun, additional advertising will be sandwiched in between trailers. From THR:
In the biggest disruption to in-theater advertising in nearly two decades, regular commercials will run for five minutes after the lights go off and before the trailers at two of the country’s largest circuits, Regal Cinemas and Cinemark Theatres. And one 60-second “platinum” spot from a top-tier brand will roll before the second-to-last or last trailer.
So if a movie at a Regal or Cinemark starts at 7 pm, audiences can expect five minutes of ads, until 7:05, at which point the trailer block will start; THR notes that trailer blocks generally run for 15-20 minutes at Regal and Cinemark locations. Then, once the bulk of the trailers are over, there’ll be at least one more ad, popping up like a totally cool and neat surprise, which means a 7 pm movie will actually start between 7:20 and 7:30.
To be fair, and depending on the theater, this could be fine—so long as you know to plan for it. If the film you want to see is at a theater like Century Eastport 16 or Regal Fox Tower 10, which offer reserved seating, you can just get your ticket online in advance, then just show up 20 minutes after the showtime and avoid being forced to sit through ads. (“When the lights go out in a movie theater and the phones are gone, it’s one of the few places where you literally have to see an ad,” brags Tom Lesinski, the CEO of theater advertising firm National CineMedia, to THR.) But at theaters where you can’t reserve seats, and thus have to get there early to get a decent spot, well… once the lights go out and the phones are gone, you can just sit back and enjoy some advertising, and also enjoy that you paid between $10 and $16 for the privilege. Perhaps you can also enjoy thinking about the fact that, back at your house, ad-free streaming options are more available and affordable than ever before.
Sit back and enjoy some advertising, and also enjoy that you paid between $10 and $16 for the privilege. Perhaps you can also enjoy thinking about the fact that, back at your house, ad-free streaming options are more available and affordable than ever before.
So far, this kind of bullshit hasn’t affected Portland’s better theaters—the ones that treat moviegoers as something more than a pair of ambulatory eyeballs they can cram ads into. That’s not to say advertising doesn’t exist at those theaters—at this point, just about all theaters are going to have some kind of advertising—but it’s nothing like this. (So long as we aren’t counting trailers, at least. It’s worth pointing out that trailers are, after all, just more ads—though ones that, for better or worse, we’ve grown used to as both as a pre-movie tradition and as an independent form of bite-sized entertainment.)
To their eternal credit, AMC Theatres, which recently took over Portland’s Cinetopia theaters, won’t be playing along. Also to their eternal credit, AMC Theatres somehow found a way to shit-talk their competitors while also somehow using the phrase “What is rue” in their press release. “What is rue is that in April of this year,” AMC’s press release reads, “NCM proposed this concept to AMC of commencing a platinum advertising program during the end of trailer play, which AMC flatly rejected at the time because of concerns that U.S. moviegoers would react quite negatively to the concept.”
One more quite negative thing about this: Adding more crap in front of a movie doesn’t seem like a particularly great idea in 2019, when movies aren’t exactly short. So far, the biggest hit of the year is Avengers: Endgame, which has a runtime of three hours and two minutes. It: Chapter Two clocks in at two hours and 50 minutes. Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood runs two hours and 40 minutes; the saga of Aquaman, for some reason, takes two hours and 22 minutes; even Shazam!, one of 2019’s films that was made explicitly for children with tiny attention spans, is over two hours long.
For future screenings at Regal and Cinemark, you can go ahead and add a half hour or so to showtimes like those, and also remember to pick up some Depends on your way to the theater.