Here at The Comeback, we’re pretty clear about our love for movie trailers. We often write posts devoted to the blockbuster previews, especially for a Star Wars or superhero movie. And we run a semi-weekly column recapping the best trailers that were released in a given week. We love movies, so we love the trailers that promote them.
But are movie studios and theater chains taking that love a bit too far? Nowadays, standard operating procedure at the cineplex seems to be running 20 minutes of trailers before a showtime. For some, that’s an abundance of riches. For others, it’s an indulgence that adds nearly half an hour to the moviegoing experience. That half-hour might seem even longer to those who have already seen those trailers online. Yet playing so many trailers before movies allows viewers to settle in. Those who have reserved seats can also show up late, knowing they won’t miss any of the movie.
Film reporter Richard Rushfield recently brought this up on his newsletter, The Ankler (a highly recommended read if you follow the business side of Hollywood), complaining about the 25 minutes of preshow he sat through. Many of his readers noted the growing number of trailers, but didn’t have a problem with that. But it got us thinking about trailers and how many are attached to most mainstream movie releases now. So we put the question to The Comeback staff:
Are 20 minutes of trailers before a movie too much?
Honestly, I’ve never had a problem with lots of movie trailers playing before a movie. Maybe I’m dating myself, but I grew up at a time when that was usually the only way to actually see a movie trailer. So it came with a bit of excitement as you settled in to see these reveals of movies you didn’t even realize were coming out before you got to see the movie you’re there for.
Over time, the big movie theater chains have inundated us with commercials and branded content, and if we’re going to say we need less of something before a movie, I’d go with that before we take away movie trailers. Besides, you also get to have that moment after every trailer where you and the person share a glance to confirm whether you think that movie looks terrible or if you want to see it.
I think trailers also serve a valuable purpose if you’re going to see movies in an arthouse or indie theater. They’re not just going to throw any old trailer up there. They specifically show you trailers for the movies they’ve got coming up and it’s more likely that you won’t be as familiar with those films than if you went to see the latest Marvel movie at the cineplex. Yes, there’s definitely too much “stuff” before your movie starts but if you’re going to cut something, cut the car commercials and Apple ads and leave my trailers alone!
There are way too many trailers playing before movies. It seems like we’re waiting longer and longer for the movie to start with more and more trailers while this more and more becomes a less effective marketing strategy.
Maybe 15 years ago, chances are that the only opportunity we could see a full-length trailer for a future movie would be in the theater. Now, we can just watch it on YouTube or on Twitter or Facebook. We even write articles about movie trailers and review them. Most people have already seen the trailer elsewhere, so it just becomes redundant when seeing it in the theater, annoying us further.
If I’m watching a two-and-a-half-hour movie, I would rather just get the movie started instead of having to wait another half-hour for trailers for movies which, if I cared about the movie, I would’ve seen the trailer already. Or I don’t care about the movie at all and don’t really care to see the trailer in the first place.
No! No!!! There are not too many trailers! People think this? Those people are wrong and very bad. I LOVE trailers!
When I was growing up, E! had a show hosted by Todd Newton (where are you now, Todd?) that was exclusively trailers and it was THE BEST. Like, literally, before DVRs and YouTube and IMDb there was a half-hour show on E! that was just trailers. (Yeah, I’m old, so what?) And if you were up late in college on a Sunday night or whenever it aired, you got to see what was coming out and when and be excited for it.
I miss that show. There should still be a show of movie trailers. I would watch it. I just want you to understand this: You watched a show, interspersed with commercials, that was commercials for new movies. This is like the annoying ad that plays before the commercial you’re trying to watch on YouTube. And I loved it.
Also, theaters aren’t going to stop showing you trailers so sit down, shut up, and enjoy them. The whole point of a theater is to sell you things. And sell you the next thing. So OF COURSE, there are trailers. “See! We got cool new stuff! Come back here and spend your money!”
I love being in a theater and knowing the trailers are tailored to the movie. Newest Disney cartoon? Four family friendly trailers. Something edgier? You’re getting horror trailers. My biggest problem with trailers is that I can never remember them after the movie. I get so immersed (hopefully) in an awesome movie experience, I end up thinking, “Wait, what were the trailers?” Like I said, I’m old.
It’s nice that with the advent of the internet I don’t *have* to be in a theater to see the trailer, but I’m also not regularly cruising the webs for trailers so I appreciate the movie theater experience. The trailers also get you excited for what’s happening next. “OH yeah! Trailers! THEN THE PRODUCTION BOARD! THEN ACTION!” It’s an expected part of the movie viewing experience, and a good one. Ten minutes of on-screen (super easy) trivia, a couple coke ads — it’s part of the rhythm of the theater-going experience.
Finally, *Abe Simpson voice* for what a movie costs these days, I want my money’s worth! Show me all the trailers you have!
If you’re above the age of 30, you remember when seeing trailers at the movies was an experience. It was cool to see what new films were coming out. But that’s a bygone era. These days, most people view the trailers for the hot upcoming films online. So seeing these trailers again at the theatre isn’t as impactful.
There are way too many trailers now and it’s aggravating having to sit through them while you’re waiting for your movie to start. Trailers should be limited to three and they should feature lesser-known movies. That would keep people’s attention rather than bore them with stuff they’ve already seen.
I think the answer to this question will vary depending on where you live and which theater you visit. Some locations play ads and then trailers before the movie. Others just play trailers and even those can vary in length. In my personal experience, we have maybe 15-ish minutes of trailers which begin at the movie’s scheduled start time at the theater I frequent.
With that in mind, I really enjoy the trailers which precede the feature film. They don’t feel too long (by comparison, they aren’t that long compared to other locations) and they set the tone for the movie-viewing experience. Nothing beats settling in, watching a few previews on the big screen (which result in the inevitable “That looks good,” or “Nope” reviews) before the main film. Things may be getting carried away in other locations, but I currently enjoy the 15-ish minutes of trailers I see before each movie.
I don’t have a yes or no answer for you. To me, you can play a few extra trailers if they are relevant to the audience watching them. If I’m at action movie and then suddenly then there are five trailers, three of which are romantic comedies, than you’re wasting my time to promote your own corporate interests. If you can show me eight trailers, six of which I haven’t seen and would be of interest to me, I’d potentially be okay with that.
I’m not counting the amount of total time watching trailers before the movie in total, but rather the amount of time spent watching trailers that I have no interest in. My experience is usually I have interest in 1/3 to 2/3 of the trailers being shown before a movie with the batting averge being 50%. If that’s the case, four trailers is a good number and five is pushing it.
Once you go over five, if you’re just cramming a bunch of crap that will get under 30% on Rotten Tomatoes or just is obviously aimed at a much different demographic than myself and others in the theater, than you’re getting on my shit list. If it’s that important to promote seven or more movies, I’d hope some of the smaller fits would only be allowed shorter 30- to 60-second clips so I’m saving a few minutes.
Yes, there are absolutely too many trailers before movies. When was the last time you actually saw a trailer for the first time in the theater? For some, sure, that still might happen regularly, but I’m not here to argue for the common good. I just want to watch the damn movie I spent too much money to come see.
I’ve taken to timing my arrival for about 10 minutes after the listed showtime, which is greatly aided when a theater offers reserved seating. When I lived in Denver, I’d buy a reserved ticket online, then simply walk in after the showtime, having avoided an excess amount of trailers (and any commercials, which remain far, far worse.)
Of course, that’s a dangerous game. At the late showing of Wonder Woman I saw, there were no trailers, presumably so the theater crew could get out as early as possible (hard to blame them), but my usual habit of arriving a bit late cost me some of the early mythology. Still, that’s a risk worth taking, especially since I raced to Dunkirk, arrived five minutes late, and still had to sit through nine trailers. That’s beyond the saturation point.
I think the trailer quantity’s about right. Pre-feature trailers are one of the big ways I figure out future movies I’m interested in, and I like seeing a good amount of them before the feature presentation. I appreciate them most when they fit with what I’m about to watch (action trailers before action movies, comedies before comedies, etc; I’m not a horror fan, so a horror trailer isn’t going to do it for me).
And movie trailers feel more appropriate to the setting than just the straight product ads sometimes also shown before movies. I’m fine with straight ads before the listed start time, and I’m fine with even a couple of ads once the lights go down if they’re new and interesting, but running an annoying ad that’s already constantly aired on TV (looking at you, Chevy Guy) before a movie is much more bothersome to me than any trailer.
I’m surprised at myself for feeling this way, but I think we’re living in a time of trailer overkill. Once upon a time, I would get irritated with friends or dates if we didn’t get to a movie early enough to see trailers. They weren’t readily available to watch multiple times online. Nearly 20 years ago, people would buy tickets to movies just to see the Star Wars: The Phantom Menace trailer and then leave after it played.
I have to acknowledge to myself that I see most trailers already because of work and personal interest, and that doesn’t apply to other moviegoers. I might be all right if studios and theaters would show updated trailers of Blade Runner 2049 or Kingsman: The Golden Circle, rather than play the same ones repeatedly. It can be fun to see them on the big screen, rather than a computer monitor or phone screen. But that novelty fades quickly. I don’t need all these trailers anymore.
These days, I’m often checking my phone during trailers. (Before you yell at me, I almost always sit in the back row, so I’m not disturbing anyone’s view. I hate people checking their phones during movies too.) It would be nice to be surprised once in a while, but those days are over.
A new theater with huge reclining seats recently opened near me, so I honestly have no issues with 20 minutes of trailers if it means I get to relax in that awesome seat for an extra 20 minutes. But I also didn’t really have an issue with multiple trailers before I could sit comfortably through them because even as they’ve moved away from their “In a world…” narration phase, and into the “classic rock song slowed down, and quietly sung, by someone” phase I’ve always enjoyed trailers.
If I do have a minor issue with trailers today it’s that between social media, YouTube, and the NBA Finals, I’ve probably seen most of the trailers shown before my movie a handful of times before sitting down in that big ass recliner. But we are living in a golden age for movie trailers with more enjoyable ones than bad, and when trailers are really good (Thor: Ragnarok and Atomic Blonde come to mind) they act as a little pick-me-up to get you ready for the next two hours. The bad ones are forgettable, especially when I’m sitting in a recliner with my popcorn.