National Association Of Theater Owners (NATO) Seek New Trailer Rules


The movie-going experience has gone through quite a flux in the past ten years or so. Between an increase in ticket prices (even out here in the boonies our prices have gone steadily up), increases in commercials, trailer and film length – not to mention the annoyances of people who talk on their cell phones or bring small children to The Evil Dead – going to the movie theater has become almost a chore for your avid film fan. So it’s no surprise that the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) is making a push for the theater experience to be a bit more user-friendly.

The unfortunately named NATO have come up with some new guidelines for movies, including shortening the length of trailers to two minutes. Most trailers in theaters now run for two and a half minutes, often with seven or eight running before a film. That translates to almost twenty minutes for trailers alone, without counting the in and out of house product advertisements.

NATO believes that simply shortening the amount of time people have to spend in their seats before films will increase ticket sales. The reasoning is sound – especially given the tendency for trailers to premiere on the Internet long before they appear in theaters. Many viewers have probably already seen the trailer for Man Of Steel several times before they ever see it in a movie-theater.

NATO also wants to stop movies from being marketed more than four months in advance of their release. While they say there will be exceptions, that’s quite a shift in the current paradigm.

Studios are predictably concerned. The current trailer length is a voluntary marketing strategy backed by the MPAA – who of course know everything about what the public wants. Ahem. Studios and distributors claim that they need the 2.5 minutes in order to “send the right message.” They don’t think they can sell a film in 2 minutes.

What’s more, distributors don’t want the rules changed for some films and not for others. That’s a legitimate gripe – it means that big tent-pole films will still market themselves well in advance, while smaller films won’t get as much play.

I think we need to call a moratorium on over-marketing, period. I’ve yet to get into the theater for Star Trek Into Darkness, but with all the featurettes, TV spots, trailers and clips, I feel like there’s little that I haven’t seen. By the time many films come out, I’m bored by the very mention of them.

As for the claim that trailer length affects ticket sales, there is something in that. But I think there’s more in ticket and concession prices, and the copious product advertisements they subject us to. I’m tired of SUVs being flashed at me for ten minutes before I get to see the film.

What do you think about the NATO guidelines? Will it change the way we go to the theater? Let us know in the comments.