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Theater Owners Want To Limit Trailers To Two Minutes Long

Everybody loves a question that has no right answer, don’t we all? In this case, the questions is “How long is too long for a film’s trailer?” Of course, context is key, as an indie rom-com has less of a motive to fill up a 2 ½-minute preview than a huge summer blockbuster that needs to bring in millions of people to make its budget back. It’s quite tricky, as some films work best without prior knowledge, and some films would be impossible to describe without an extended visual representation. If the National Association of Theater Owners gets their way, however, moviegoers’ opinions won’t matter. Or at least, they’ll matter about as much as they do now.

But the studios that put those movies out want nothing to do with it, as The Hollywood Reporter claims NATO’s plans to try and limit theatrical trailers to two minutes has met a wall of negativity. NATO’s board has proposed a series of “guidelines” that would give theater owners more control over what they show in their theater, claiming frequent customer complaints that trailers are too long and that too much of the plot is given away. I understand that argument completely, and the 2 ½ minute voluntary guidelines set up by the MPAA are as arbitrary as anything else being set up. But I also understand why some companies feel that their products deserve more than two minutes to get the point across.

“My trailers are 2.5 minutes because that's what we need to send the right message,” said a studio exec that chose to remain anonymouse. “This could be a paradigm shift. Thirty seconds is a long time.” There is also worry that the shorter trailer time would allow theater owners to play more trailers, for which the studios are responsible to pay.

Already, the MPAA provides one exception per company that allows for an extended trailer, such as this third trailer from Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Honestly, the Man of Steel and Star Trek Into Darkness ad campaigns probably got on a lot of people’s nerves. Trailers used to be the silver lining to watching a terrible movie, but when you’re sitting through over twenty minutes of trailers for films that are already clogging up TV and Internet ads, the film companies start to look more and more like the overbearing bad guys.

Other guidelines NATO wants to introduce are limiting a film’s marketing schedule to four months before the film’s release (with exceptions for tentpole flicks), and forcing all marketing material to include a release date. This would put a limit on previews that showcase twenty seconds of darkness, some kind of footprint, a film name and then a “Coming Next Summer” tag, and I don’t see how this is a problem. I know some people need that kind of pre-release buzz, but it isn’t one of the necessary evils that the film business takes advantage of customers with.

NATO’s proposal isn’t official yet, as they wanted to test the waters by getting the gist of it out there first, and the result was less-than-impressive. Only the future can tell how this will come out. What do you guys think?

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Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.