Trailers a bounty for theaters, concern for studios

Wed May 5, 2010 1:43am EDT
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By Carl DiOrio

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Wondering why the coming attractions keep coming and coming these days?

Simple: For the first time, theater operators routinely are being paid to play movie trailers.

The placement of a half dozen or more trailers, often after seven or eight consumer-product commercials, raises the question of whether such "pre-show" presentations poison moviegoers' mood. The conundrum keeps movie producers awake at night, for the same producers would have to nag studio marketing executives if their films failed to open well.

Which leads to the further question: When will the industry as a whole decide enough is enough?

"I admit it bothers even me," a top film distribution executive acknowledged recently. "Then again, I know I want my own trailer to be played. So I don't know the answer, because everybody is going to feel the same way."

Trailer numbers have surged in the past decade from two to four per film to a current five to seven on screens operated by larger circuits, with an additional number of 30-second "teaser" trailers often tossed in as well.

The National Association of Theater Owners doesn't dictate rules to its members on trailer numbers, but NATO president John Fithian said the trade group frowns on anything hurting the theatrical experience.

"We're seeing an increased pressure to play trailers, but there is a limit to what the patron can take in and retain," Fithian said. "Playing trailers does help both distribution and exhibition, so it's important to get it right."   Continued...