Moviegoers Want to See Far Fewer Trailers in Theaters

Movie Theater Curtains - H - 2019

The ideal number of previews shown before a feature is one to three, a Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll finds.

Hollywood studio marketers take heed: consumers want fewer in-theater trailers. Nearly six in 10 Americans, or 59 percent, say one to three is an ideal number, a Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll finds.

Yet many of the country's larger cinema circuits — including mega chains AMC Theatres, Regal Cinemas and Cinemark Theatres — screen anywhere from five to eight trailers before the main attraction gets underway, even as movie running times are on the rise.

While online viewing may reach more potential moviegoers, screening a trailer in an actual cinema is still one of the most valuable tools a studio has in promoting its upcoming slate because of the captive audience and communal experience.

AMC, the largest chain, sports a 20-minute preshow at most of its locations. The preshow can include as many as seven to eight trailers, concession promo, safety instructions and third-party ads. The preshow for Regal's locations varies from 15- to 20-minutes, while Cinemark's is generally confined to 15 minutes.

"We consider movie trailers to be an integral part of the overall show. The listed runtime for each feature film does not include approximately 20 minutes of this preshow material," AMC states on its website. Otherwise, theater circuits are reluctant to discuss the subject on the record, since playing promos can bring in sizable revenue.

On the other end of the spectrum, the upscale ArcLight chain limits its preshow to seven minutes, which equates to three trailers on average.

According to the Morning Consult poll, only 21 percent of respondents are in favor of watching four to six trailers; that number drops dramatically to 2 percent when asking about watching seven to nine trailers. Among the poll's other findings: 5 percent would rather see no trailers at all, while 1 percent would be in favor of watching more than a dozen.

If there's a silver lining, it's that members of the Generation Z and Millennial generations — who generally make up the largest segment of the audience — are likely to be the most interested in more trailers. The poll finds that 30 percent of adults between ages 18-22 and ages 23-38 say four to six trailers is fine. Still, even those age groups prefer one to three trailers (42 percent and 52 percent, respectively).

The older the consumer is, the more adverse he or she is to numerous spots. Among members of Generation X (ages 39 to 54), 63 percent favor one to three trailers, compared to 19 percent who are okay with four to six. It's even more dramatic for Baby Boomers (ages 55 to 73). Sixty-six percent prefer one to three trailers, while only 15 percent are in favor of four to six. And with all age groups, the percentages decrease from there.

In 2014, the National Association of Theater Owners issued guidelines urging studios to confine the length of their trailers to 2 minutes or less — every studio was granted two exemptions a year — as well as a a voluntary instruction to promote movies no more than five months before their release.