While the holiday season explodes this year with a new wave of box office hopefuls,advertising companies are scrambling to greet expectant audiences with shows of their own.
From rolling stock commercials to local advertisements,most movie theaters throughout the country are running at least three minutes of pre-show advertisements before features.
These advertisements bring in revenue for the movie business that might be doing a little belt-tightening as movies become increasingly expensive to make.
The average cost to make a movie rose from $9.4 million in 1980 to $54.8 million in 2000,according to the Motion Picture Association of America. Costs to market films also have skyrocketed,jumping from $4.3 million in 1980,to $31 million in 2001.
Most advertisers see a window of opportunity to reach the movie-going consumer during the summer and holiday seasons,when most high-profile films are released,said Todd Siegel,senior vice president of sales and marketing at Screenvision,which distributes commercials to about 14,000 movie screens.
Sales have been booming for Screenvision in the past few years. The number of screens it distributes to is up from 11,800 screens earlier this year,after its acquisition of Val Morgan,the fourth largest in-cinema advertising company in the United States,at the end of summer.
“We've been selling to more places,” Siegel said. “(Sales) have grown over the last couple of years because of increased demand.”
Yet some anti-commercialism groups,such as Commercial Alert,a nonprofit organization founded by Ralph Nader,said the public is demanding the movie,not all the ads.
Gary Ruskin,executive director of Commercial Alert,is pushing for cities to pass legislation that would require movie theaters to tell their audiences the exact time the movie begins,not the time the commercials do.
“Across the country,movie theaters are involved in a deception,” Ruskin said. “They lie to us about when the movies begin.”
Along with advocating for laws to curb the use of pre-show advertisements,Commercial Alert also is asking audiences to yell “No commercials!” before features.
Even though Ruskin said he has heard of some movie-goers using these verbal protests,so far,no city has yet passed a law.
But he said he does not think the problem will worsen.
“Movie-goers are starting to get really mad about these ads,” Ruskin said. “We're winning a number of different skirmishes related to (commercialism),and because of these,I think the backlash against commercialism will prevail regarding pre-movie ads too.”
Some advertising companies are recognizing the need to keep the audience happy,and are undertaking reforms next year that will add more entertainment content to their advertising segments.
Regal Cinemedia,an advertising subsidiary of Regal Entertainment Group,is incorporating a 20-minute digital pre-show in its theaters that will contain a mixture of advertising segments and informative shorts provided by NBC and other media outlets.
The pre-show will be about 65 percent informative content and 35 percent advertising,a significant reduction in the 20 minutes of pure advertising movie-goers currently view at its theaters,which include Edwards Theaters Inc.,United Artists Theater Co.,and Regal Cinemas Corp.
Regal,which owns almost 6,000 movie screens in the United States,will begin this reform in about 4,500 of them starting early next year,said Kurt Hall,CEO of Regal Cinemedia.
And when the digital pre-shows begin playing in Regal theaters,they will begin 20 minutes before the scheduled show time to target patrons who arrive at theaters early.
“We're trying to enhance the movie-going experience,” Hall said. “We hope that after the public gets used to this 20-minute show,they'll come to the theater earlier to get a good seat.”