Theaters Working To Make Even The Pre-Show Ads More Entertaining

from the good-for-everyone dept

Two different themes we’ve discussed here quite often are (1) that movie theaters need to stop worrying about piracy, and focus more on improving the moviegoing experience and (2) that advertising is content — and it better be good content if you want the advertising to be effective. That’s why it’s somewhat encouraging to see that movie theaters are now experimenting with much more entertaining and interactive “pre-show” advertising. They’re doing things like using motion sensors to have the audience “play” a game as a group, or having them use their mobile phones to vote on certain questions on the screen and immediately showing the results. That latter example may be doubly surprising considering how theaters these days are so anti-mobile phone. Still, while this is a move in the right direction, it’s the wrong thing to be focusing on at this point. Improving the overall experience is much more important than making the pre-show ads better, so hopefully this is only one small part of what theaters are working on these days.

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Comments on “Theaters Working To Make Even The Pre-Show Ads More Entertaining”

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Nasch says:

It's a relief

I just saw a movie, and while it didn’t have any interactive content at the beginning, the ads were almost all creative and entertaining. There was one (IMO) boring, same-old soft drink commercial, but compared to when I would grit my teeth and consider complaining to the management that I was paying to watch commercials, the rest of them were a pleasant surprise. Then again, maybe others found the ads I liked to be a boring waste of time, but it was at least apparent that they’re trying something more than just moving TV spots into the movie theater.

Bob says:

I will accept advertising at a movie when they can get the things framed and focused. Oh and appropriate sound levels to allow pre-show conversation would be great too.

The last two movies I went to were out of focus and out of frame. When I went to tell someone, they looked at me like I asked for free popcorn. The last movie I had to go out twice during the movie before they would fix anything.

Fix the movie experience and I don’t care what content you throw at me before the movie.

Jeff says:

Too little, too late for some

I have a huge TV, a nice surround-sound system and a comfy couch. The last time I was in a movie theater was 4 years ago and I’ll probably never go to one ever again, unless it’s for a presentational meeting for my job.

Movie theaters are, for the most part, out-dated, badly managed and don’t make for a very good time, as far as experiencing a movie goes. Making the advertising that you see before a movie more entertaining is sort of a step in the wrong direction, or at least blatantly ignoring the real issues that people have with going to see movies in a theater. You might as well tell someone that even though you’re going to slam their dick in a car door, you’re going to tickle their balls with a feather beforehand.

Clean up the pee/vomit, mercilessly kick out the talkers, tone down the air conditioning and we’ll see.

Brooks says:

I'll pay to avoid ads

Open a theater that has reasonable pre-show entertainment, and I will cheerfully go 20 minutes early to see it (and probably spend $20 for a popcorn and a drink). There’s no scenario where I will seek out ads, period.

Right now my strategy is to get to the theater 5 minutes after the advertised show time. Of course, I don’t get a great seat, and sometimes I still get advertising, and sometimes I miss a few minutes of the movie. Those things combined probably contribute to the fact that I now see 2-3 movies a year in the theater, whereas 5 years ago I probably say 10-15 a year.

It’s true that advertising should be entertaining if it must exist, but many of us will spend a price premium (in the form of higher ticket prices or more concession purchases) to avoid it altogether.

Beefcake says:

Cell phone voting

That latter example may be doubly surprising considering how theaters these days are so anti-mobile phone.

Actually, I think it might benefit as it helps make sure people’s minds are engaged about their ‘phones right before the movie starts, and it gives them a reason to have them out so they can silence them. This does more than the little message displayed on the screen which is universally ignored because it isn’t interesting (which is the point of the post in the first place.)

My two cents on the eve of a long weekend. Keep your fingers, everyone.

BTR1701 (profile) says:

Re: Cell phone voting

> and it gives them a reason to have them out so they can silence them.

People don’t turn their phones off because they’ve forgotten about them. People don’t turn them off because they think the world is all about them and *their* calls are more important than everyone else’s. “Turning off phones is something everyone else should do, not me.”

I bit the bullet and went and saw “Indiana Jones” in a theater a few weeks ago instead of waiting for the DVD like I do most movies and it was ridiculous. Three different people not only had their phones ring during the movie, but all three *took the call* and started yakking away right there in the seats– and when the movie got louder, so did they so they could be heard over the soundtrack.

One teenage asshole even went so far as to start playing his mp3s out loud on his iPhone during the parts of the movie he found boring– basically anything without explosions. He just turned on the music and sat back chatting with his girlfriend. I’ve never seen anything like it. Of course it’s situations like that that make being a cop rather convenient. Tell the kid to turn it off once and after you get the finger, yank him up and start putting the cuffs on him for disturbing the peace. His “fuck everyone” attitude suddenly disappears and the tears and begging and apologies take its place real quick.

Bottom line, that’s the last movie I’ll go to in a theater for the foreseeable future. My home theater’s visual and audio capabilities rival a theater presentation without any of the crap– babies crying, people talking, cell phones ringing, parking charges, lines, uncomfortable seats, traffic, drive time– none of it. I can watch the movie only with the people I like and if I have to go to the restroom or take a call myself, I can stop the movie and do it at my convenience without missing anything.

jonnyq says:


I played a group game like this while waiting in line in Disney World. It was a lot of fun and get the crowd doing something other than sitting around.

But the quality was pretty bad. If you’re able to identify your personally little blob on the screen and start waving to pop the balloons (or whatever it is in the game), it seems woefully inaccurate. The most fun was the racing game where the crowd steers by leaning. I don’t see how that would work on a theater, though, with one crowd. (Waiting in line, there were multiple screens parallel to a long line.) It’s a good time waster, but not fantastic.

Brad says:

Here’s my take on this. I don’t care how freakin’ entertaining the ads are, I just want less of them. The last two times I’ve been to the theater, I had to to endure a whopping half hour (read: 30 MINUTES) of trailer previews and corny theater ads before the movie I paid to see actually started. That is from the advertised movie start time until the time the movie actually began. I can understand 10 or 15 minutes, but 30 minutes is absolutely outrageous!!! I remember when they showed just two or three trailers, a quick reminder to turn off your cell phones, and then movie started. Um, yes, we know the theater is a digital theater. It looks great. We don’t need a 5-minute commercial with a dozen corny testimonials from “actual customers” to tell us that. If anything, that makes me want to not want to come back to that theater even more so.

Another thing I seem to recall that while waiting for Kung Fu Panda to start (great movie btw), some of the trailers being shown had more adult-oriented ratings than the movie I actually paid to see. I would not want to take my kids to see a clean movie only to have them watching previews with nasty stuff in them. That is completely unacceptable. Trailers shown in a particular theater should never exceed the rating of the feature movie you’ve come to see, for obvious reasons. Plus, they should be relevant to the type of film you’re seeing as well.

There are movies I still want to see on the big screen, but I am going to think twice before going to the theater again and having to sit through all that crap. My home theater is pretty darn nice now with a 40″ LCD and surround sound, the couches are much more comfortable than the theater chairs, and the snacks are a heck of a lot cheaper.

If the theaters honestly think they can “improve” the experience by constantly inflating snack prices far beyond what I consider reasonable and increasing the amount of ads one has to sit through while already having paid an arm and a leg for the ticket and above-mentioned snacks, then they are indeed going to die a slow, miserable death.

John (profile) says:


I don’t mind seeing a few (meaning 4 or 5) trailers before a movie, but I’ve enough with the commercials which were literally shown on TV the night before!

I know theater owners want to make money by selling commercial space, but can’t commercial-makers at least *try* to make something different for theater-goers?

If I wanted to see TV commercials, I’ll stay at home. Heck, if I don’t want to see ANY commercials, I’ll get the movie from “In Demand”.
I was about to say “get the movie on DVD”, but we all know how loaded DVD’s are with commercials and trailers, and other junk you can’t skip.

Eric the Grey says:

Re: Re:

It seems to me that people are talking about the former, rather than the latter.

Personally, movie previews are part of the movie-going experience, even IF they are still ads. I like to see the big-screen trailers of upcoming movies, most of the time. Even if it’s a movie that I’d never consider watching in a million years.

I think of ads at the theater, I think of the stuff that gets played before the scheduled start time. I have only rarely seen true ads after that point.


BruceShining says:

Ads suck -- especially army ads

I hate the advertising. I’ve grown to accept (and sometimes enjoy) the trailers; but the ads are just an invasion.
My pet peeve: I think the US uses its military as a bully tactic: killing innocents (and some bad guys) and ruining cultures and economies (including our own).
War is always a net negative.
So when I have to sit and watch an add for how great the army is, I just want to puke. They show those ads on TV too, but at least I can change the channel or turn off the TV.
It just really pisses me off at the theater.

net625 says:

I still like going to the movies with my friends. Recently I realized that I am the only one of my RICH friends who doesn’t through my drink on the ground at the end and then walk out. I think people need to learn a bit more respect. But if you pay $10 for a ticket and then $5 for that drink then I think you have a right to through it on the ground because you paied for that experience and thats what you get. I think that the theaters need to change and get a bit cheeper before people stop complaining. Another thing that would help the theater industry is some good movies. And interactivity would be great. Because in the past I have considered taking my iPod out so that I could listen to some music I got board during the movie. I didn’t because it makes me look like an ass hole. But I am still willing to go to a theater vs downloading off the internet because of instant gratification. I would also say that at times that the projection is way off the screen and I would say they could start with that fix that takes about five minutes or less to accomplish. I don’t complain about it because the actual movie is fine but if your going to have adds it would be nice to see all of them. Asside from that I have no complaints.

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