Movie Theaters to Studios: Shorter Trailers, Please

Arguing that long trailers and early marketing was hurting the experience for movie-goers. The National Association of Theater Owners announced new marketing guidelines for the film industry this week. Where you'll see the biggest changes? In the trailers, which have gotten super-sized in recent years.

Arguing that long trailers and early marketing were hurting the movie-going experience for their customers, the National Association of Theater Owners announced new marketing guidelines for the film industry this week. You’ll see the biggest changes in the trailers, which have gotten super-sized in recent years.

Spoiler alert: Movie-goers aren’t really big on super-long trailers.

And with that info in mind, the National Association of Theater Owners this week announced a set of new guidelines [PDF] to limit the length of movie trailers, as well as to shorten the window in which a movie studio can market a film ahead of its release. The association says the guidelines are based partly on consumer feedback.

One reason? The trailers are adding a lot of extra weight to a film’s running time. As The Hollywood Reporter notes, it’s not uncommon for a string of trailers to fill up 20 minutes before a movie’s start—and some studios are pushing for individual trailers as long as two and a half minutes, sometimes for films that won’t be released for more than six months. That’s because, for all the talk of internet marketing, it’s the traditional approach that works best for getting movie-goers in the seats—to watch more trailers.

With the new guidelines, studios would be held to two minutes for trailers, and marketing frames would shrink to 150 days for trailers and 120 days for posters and other in-theater marketing materials.

On top of this, the new guidelines include a few other marketing restrictions:

Brand endorsements: The standards would discourage the marketing of secondary products, such as related video games or television shows, during trailers. “On-screen marketing materials should be thematic to the feature,” the guidelines state.

Interactive marketing: Beyond URLs, the guidelines would bar any sort of direct-response prompts from the trailers—think QR codes or phone numbers to text—which the association says would encourage mobile use during the film.

Film auditing: Finally, the guidelines include limitations affecting film checkers and auditors—officials from studios who check to ensure trailers are shown. The standards require proper identification and a letter from a studio. Notably, the rules require that the auditors not sit in a theater, and that they must leave before the film starts. In an article on the guidelines, Deadline writer David Lieberman called this addition “curious” and said that it suggested the association “holds film checkers and auditors in low regard.”

The rules, which the theater owners’ group says contain “significant modifications” based on movie studio discussions—most notably allowing the studios to break the rules twice a year for large-scale releases—are nonetheless voluntary. But the association says the guidelines will help ensure that the studios’ marketing inside the theater is “optimally effective.”

“Given the limits of time and space in theaters, and the desire to maximize sales to all movies in a fair and competitive environment, exhibitors believe these new guidelines can help the entire industry sell more tickets,” the association wrote.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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