The National Association of Theatre Owners met with resistance from some studios when it went to the majors with a controversial set of movie trailer guidelines last week. It wants studios to limit trailers to two minutes, down 30 seconds from the MPAA-set standard, and to only advertise films within a four-month pre-release window. NATO-repped theater owners want more control over the promos that run ahead of movies and argue that shorter trailers will make moviegoing more appealing to audiences. Exhibitors would then have extra promo time to use as they choose, whether that means squeezing in additional trailers, house ads, or other inventory. But some distribution pros tell me it’s purely a money-driven move designed to squeeze more revenue out of pre-roll programming they fear could hurt studio marketing efforts.Some studio execs are grumbling, and they’re not going to just roll over over for exhibitors. Two of the seven studios approached last week flat-out rejected the guidelines, according to a source close to the talks. Others are more open to working with NATO and the MPAA on how best to market to in-theater audiences and put butts in seats, but still have major concerns.
As it is, MPAA guidelines limit trailers to two-and-a-half minutes with one exception per year per studio. “Two-minute trailers might sometimes make sense,” one distribution exec admits. But every movie requires a different marketing strategy, making studios loathe to further restrict trailer parameters. Limiting length or timing of some trailers could hurt the bottom line for certain releases, one distributor tells me, if its story takes longer than two minutes to make an impactful in-theater impression, or if there’s no comparable new release to attach it to within four months.
The majority of the major studios reportedly pay millions each year for trailer placement with select theater chains, but others including Disney do not. And not every theater charges for trailer play. I hear the initiative was backed unanimously by NATO’s board, which includes reps from all major chains. But NATO as an exhibitor advocacy group has no actionable power, hence the organization’s private proposal which will now go back to NATO’s board for reconsideration.