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Theater owners reportedly pushing for shorter movie trailers to improve audience experience

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grauman's chinese theater
grauman's chinese theater

Moviegoers may soon be spending less time sitting through trailers if theater owners have their way. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the National Association of Theater Owners is hoping to enact a new set of marketing rules that would give exhibitors more control over the experience audiences have when they go to the movies. The biggest change would be limiting the length of movie trailers to just two minutes. Per a set of voluntary guidelines from the Motion Picture Association of America, studios currently keep their trailers at two and a half minutes in length, with one exception allowed per year.

According to the report, theater owners are responding to complaints from audiences that have grown tired of the combination of lengthy trailers and in-theater advertisements before films actually begin — and who also think that lengthy trailers give away too much of a movie's plot. Studios, on the other hand, are reportedly concerned that the change would force them to completely rethink the way they market movies. "This could be a paradigm shift," an anonymous executive is quoted as saying. "Thirty seconds is a long time."

"This could be a paradigm shift."

A number of other changes could also reduce the flexibility studios have. NATO is said to be considering limiting the marketing of individual movies to within four months of their actual release (though exceptions would be allowed), and it may also require studios to put a movie's release date on all marketing materials. Like the MPAA guidelines already in place, these new rules would be voluntary, but theaters could theoretically refuse to play trailers that don't comply with the new rules.

While NATO's points about the overall moviegoing experience are certainly valid, there is financial upside for theater owners as well. As the Reporter points out, many studios pay theaters to play trailers, and shorter trailers could allow theaters to pack more of those revenue generators within the amount of time they currently have allotted. It's also hard to not see the new rules as part of a continuing back-and-forth between theater owners and distributors as they try to strike a balance between preserving the theatrical moviegoing experience and maximizing revenue in an era of tightening release windows and new home video options.