Loews Goes Reel Time
Hate going to the movies and having a commercial-a-thon break out?
This might be the news you’ve been waiting for.
Coming soon to a theater near you: actual start times for feature presentations.
In response to gripes from customers about the increasing number of ads, PSAs, promotions and sneak previews running before a film, Loews, America’s third-largest theater chain, has announced that it will soon start publicizing the real times that movies unspool.
But there’s a catch. Beginning next month, Loews will include in its newspaper and Web listings a note alerting customers that “the feature presentation starts 10 to 15 minutes after the posted show time.”
“It has been a long-standing tradition to show coming attractions and advertising before the feature, and we believe most of our customers understand this practice,” Travis Reid, president and CEO of Loews Cineplex, says in a press release.
He added: “Recently however, some of our customers have suggested that we also publicize the start time of the movie. In response to those requests, we are pleased to communicate the start time of the overall show, as well as the approximate start time of the feature.”
That’s one way of putting it.
Traditionally, moviegoers would sit through cutesy “Let’s All Go To the Lobby”-type spots attempting to coax the audience to concession stands, followed by a handful of coming-attraction trailers. In recent years, as local movie houses have expanded into megaplexes, exhibitors have begun to wring every ounce of revenue from each showing. First, more trailers were added. Then came the now standard slideshows of local merchants interspersed with lame-o trivia and Muzak-esque “movie tunes.” There were also short films designed to hawk everything from Coca-Cola to the Los Angeles Times. Now, exhibitors routinely air long-form commercials that have little to do with the theatrical experiences, including spots for automobile manufacturers, perfume makers and credit card companies.
Loews isn’t the only offender. Regal Entertainment touts what it calls “The 2wenty,” a 20-minute block of advertising and “preshow entertainment” that mixes informercials for DVDs and TV movies with behind-the-scenes visits with stars–the idea being to make it entertaining enough that people don’t notice they’re being marketed to.
Audiences have finally begun to rebel, launching www.captiveaudience.org, a campaign petitioning theater chains to end the practice, and Commercial Alert, a Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit dedicated to reducing the over-commercialization of American culture.
“Stating when the actual movie starts is an improvement, but doesn’t change our opinion that TV commercials have no place in movie theaters,” Jason Thompson, director of Captive Motion Picture Audience of America, tells E! Online. “We don’t get commercials on HBO, pay-per-view or other movie services that we pay for, so why should we tolerate them in theaters?”
Ditto Commercial Alert’s executive director, Gary Ruskin, who points to a study by Connecticut-based research firm Insight Express that stated a majority of moviegoers don’t want to see premovie ads.
“These premovie ads are very unpopular…We’re talking about an industry that seems hell-bent on alienating its core customers,” Ruskin says. “The moviegoing experience is turning into an infomercial experience.”
Even politicians are now entering the fray. Andrew M. Fleischmann, a Connecticut state representative, made headlines last month when he introduced a bill calling for exhibitors to post the actual start times. Perhaps not so coincidentally, Loews will begin its reel time experiment in Connecticut. New York City Councilwoman Gale A. Brewer sponsored similar legislation.
Despite its new initiative, Loews still expects people to arrive well before the feature gets rolling.
“We still think people enjoy coming early, getting their popcorn, finding their sets, talking amongst one another,” John McCauley, Loews’ senior vice president of marketing, tells the New York Times.
And Madison Avenue will be there waiting.
I don’t mind commercials, but then lower the prices!
Loews Goes Reel Time