NYT: Revamping Before-the-Movie Ads at Cinemas


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There’s bad news for those of you who like to actually have conversations with your movie-going companions. At least one company is looking to monetize your free time, especially if you get to the theater early to secure good seats.

“Screenvision, which sells and programs in-cinema advertising, wants to spice up the preshow experience. Last week, the company unveiled its plans for a redesigned 20-minute ‘advertainment’ block to marketers in a private presentation in New York. Consumers — Screenvision says it reaches 45 million moviegoers a month — will start to see it at local cinemas in September.”

For me, the central lesson of this age of modern media is that anything can be advertised anywhere, and it’s no use fighting it. Still, the pre-show advertising reel — the ads that come before the trailers — have always struck me as an invasion of privacy. The time that I spend before the trailers belongs to me; the only reason I get to the theater early is because I have to work around the theater’s inability to guarantee me a good seat. To have that time intruded upon by loud, obnoxious advertising is infuriating.

  1. That’s nothing new where we live – the west coast. Our theater chains show “FirstLook” and some other twenty-minute long commercials before the previews even begin. They’re loud and annoying and impossible to talk through. They highlight television shows or upcoming movies, and are 100%-advertising. They have a special version for kids that plays before G-rated films. Vomit.

  2. Have experienced the pre-movie ads and don’t like them either. Your “anything anywhere” line reminded me of attending a local college football game last season. Every small break in play prompted some spot to be played across the PA so loud that I had a hard time talking to a friend sitting next to me.

    Unfortunately the experience for both has gone downhill in my opinion.

  3. Totally agree about this being infuriating and intrusive — though I guess all advertising has this effect on me. This sort of thing has been going on for quite a while on the west coast. Iirc, they’ve even branded it as “The Twenty” — as if it’s something you’d seek out. Lots of network TV, military, and celebrity-sponsored charity ads.

  4. … and they have no reason to give you a good chance to reserve a seat, because then everybody would do this from home and come in at the last second, right before the trailers start.

    We have one cinema chain in Germany, UCI, where the reservation system works really well, you can chose your seat on the website, then pay with your credit card, and then you can skip the lines and go to a “quick-checkout” ticket dispenser, where you just slide the card you paid with and out come your tickets.
    I therefore chose this theater over the others in town, even though it’s not easily reachable from where I live, and others would be more convenient to go to – but I want to skip the line…

  5. This is nothing really “new”, and theaters around here have been showing ads during this time for a while. But whether or not I’m being advertised to during this time doesn’t really bother me — it already stopped being my time when I had to go sit extra at the theater just to be able to see the movie. I think that Jonathan Lang has a valid point — I actually prefer the system in some European countries where movie tickets aren’t sold as general admission — buying a specific seat (online, in advance) means not having to show up early to sit through this.

  6. I realize I was misleading in the way that I framed this ‘news.’ Yes, it’s true that theaters on the West coast, theaters in South Carolina and theaters all over the world — including New York — have had ad reels playing before the trailers for some time now. I’m pretty sure it’s widespread and very common in North America, anyway.

    This particular news item discusses how companies are bearing down on that ad opportunity to produce more engaging content. I was blending in my general distaste for the pre-show ad reel with this mildly new development. Sorry for the confusion.

  7. Typically the people I’m with talk over the obnoxious TV show plugs, boring trivia and nerve-grating pop music that they try to peddle to anyone trying to secure a good seat. I can’t see how they could force people to do otherwise, since the lights will have to be on for viewers to find their seats and lights always translate to “it’s okay to talk”.

    Fortunately not all theaters have Screenvision. The Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin shows clips relevant to whatever movie you may be seeing – for example, Ben Stiller sketch comedy before Greenberg and DVD extras from Toy Story 1 and 2 before Toy Story 3. One of the many reasons I go there instead of Cinemark or Regal.

  8. I don’t mind them “monetizing” the pre-show time slot – just please do it in a way that’s interesting.

    What’s wrong with using the time for News Reels or shorts or cartoons even? But the endless dribble of “TNT knows Drama” and “you’ve been watching behind the scenes of ‘The Closer'” just make me want to run screaming for the nearest exit…

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