Okay… I get that the experience of going to the movies has changed. Theaters need to generate income. Not only at the box office and the concession stands. A small popcorn and a large bottle of water? Over $11.00???
Long gone are the days of the double feature, with cartoon, short subject, news reel and coming attractions.
Now, leaving a blank screen for paying audiences to view before the film is considered old school. Expect a slate of advertisements for local businesses at some theaters. Others make use of a pre-packaged conglomeration of behind the scenes peeks and trailers to fill the time. Heaven forbid that the theater chain should miss out on revenue by just having nothing to tempt their customers with.
Used to be, I was pretty regular when it came to watching movies in theaters. Once, maybe even twice a week would find me taking in the latest that Hollywood had to offer. During that time, I probably watched thousands of previews of coming attractions. Also known as trailers. Many, infinitely forgettable, for movies I would never see. Some for films that I awaited with anticipation. Back in those days, the only place you saw them was in theaters before the feature film.
Not so today. In the days of the Internet, there are a multitude of opportunities to watch clips and trailers for films yet to be released. From web pages dedicated to films, to studios looking to share their summer slate, to social media such as Twitter and Facebook… only a single click of your mouse away. Add in viewing on your iPad or iPhone along with television and DVD’s and you can not miss seeing the trailer for any film in some fashion.
So it was that I found myself at one of the local multiplexes. Traffic heading home was particularly ugly and rather than sit in it, I decided to take in one of the new products from a major studio. Tuesday afternoon at 5 pm seemed the right time. All in all, there may have been 20 people in a theater capable of seating 300 plus. The feature chosen started at 5:10 pm, or at least that is what was indicated on the digital sign outside.
This chain fills the empty time ahead of a screening by showing a pre-packaged block of content from one of the major studios. I am sure that somewhere accountants cheer every time it is shown to patrons. Mercifully, by the time I was relieved of my $11 for that small popcorn and large water and had found my way to a seat in the theater, most of the content had been shown. Next came the obligatory request to silence your cell phone and refrain from texting during the showing.
Now, this is where one can expect that trailers would be shown for a few coming attractions.
Yesterday? I was forced to view eight of them, taking up no less than 20 minutes of my time. Let me repeat that. My time.
The film runs 124 minutes. Throw in the theater chains own bit of promotion including temptations at the concession stand and the total package comes in at 150 minutes. Two hours and thirty minutes. Fill in that with cleaning the theater and showing that pre-packaged content again and you easily have 3 hours between showings, if not more.
In these days when theater chains want every last minute of the day to fit in every possible showing and maximize those audience dollars, one would count every minute as precious. When the staff level is cut to the bone (paid as little as possible) and the theater is using the smallest possible concession stand to wring every cent they can from patrons, you can understand it all from a business perspective.
Understand it? Yes. Like it? A decided “No”.
As a comparison, late last year, I took in another twilight showing of a blockbuster at a different theater chain. For the record, that film ran 169 minutes and had only three trailers shown ahead of it. That chain uses dead time to promote local businesses on it’s screens. Call it philosophical differences, but it was a better experience from the perspective of this paying audience member.
So, all in all, next time I ponder seeing a film, I will be less likely to consider the same theater chain as yesterday’s unpleasantness. And maybe that’s not such as bad thing…