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As demonstrated in "You've Got Mail," there's a lot of time to talk before the movie starts

Movie previews: Love 'em or hate 'em, they're here to stay

Web posted on:
Tuesday, February 02, 1999 3:53:23 PM EST

From Correspondent Paul Vercammen

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Moviegoers may have noticed that the movie times listed in the local newspaper don't necessarily indicate the time the movie will actually start. Previews take up nearly half an hour before each movie in some theaters, with the concept of advertising films gaining in popularity, at least among promoters.

Audiences don't necessarily agree.

Are you a pre-movie promotions fan or foe? Go to the boards!

"I think it takes too long," said one recent moviegoer at a Los Angeles theater. "You come to see a movie and not all the previews first."

Others, however, enjoy the preamble before the feature attraction. On the day it was released, some film fans paid the full price of admission just to watch the preview for the upcoming "Star Wars" installment, "The Phantom Menace." Then, they left.

"When I come to the movie, I like the trailers because it gives me time to get settled into the movie," says another moviegoer.

Some movie patrons paid the full ticket price to see the trailer of the new "Star Wars" prequel... and then went home

'Grumbling going on'

Whether audiences appreciate movie previews or not, it seems they are here to stay, and are coming in greater abundance than ever before.

At some Los Angeles-area theaters, the movie is preceded by five trailers, a Los Angeles Times advertisement, and another announcement or two. This means the movie can actually start 25 minutes after the time listed in the paper.

"I don't mind trailers; they give me information," says Anne Thompson of "Premiere" magazine. "But I do mind ads, and I think there is some grumbling going on. I've heard some people complaining that they can't tell when they're going to get out of a movie, because the movie preamble takes too long."

Some theaters put a limit on how many trailers they show before a movie begins

Free advertisement

Theaters show trailers such as Miramax Films' "Shakespeare in Love" for free, at the urging of studios.

"There's no cash, but there's a ton of begging," says Mark GIl, the West Coast president of Miramax Films. "It's all about, 'Please please please could you play our trailer, which is about this subject which matches up with (X) movie you are about to show and ours is really important. And we'll be nice to you and I'll be your best friend for a quarter,' all that sort of thing."

Both theaters and studios benefit from free movie advertising. As part of a pact between theaters and the Motion Picture Association of America, most trailers may not exceed two and a half minutes, with one exception a year made for each studio.

"We get feedback pretty quickly if we go too long, but at the same time we want to show enough so people know what's coming," says Randall Hester of Cinemark. "It's the best targeted audience we have for advertising, so it's important that they know what's about to come out."

And no matter how long it runs, it's advertising that nearly guarantees the audience will be back in theaters -- to see a new movie, and watch the movie trailers that precede it.

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