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Theaters And Studios Squabble Over Shortening Movie Trailers

Bored people in a movie theater falling asleep.

Here's a question: If you go to the movies and the scheduled showtime is, say, 7:30, when do you actually expect the movie to start? If you said 7:30, you go to very unusual screenings. If you said 7:45, you're closer to what many experience. If you said 7:50, you're still in range: There's often some advertising other than trailers, the limit for trailer length is 2 1/2 minutes, and theaters sometimes run seven or eight trailers. Eight would add up to 20 minutes.

Theater owners are antsy about the long delays and the complaints they get from patrons, and they're asking for a change, writer Pamela McClintock tells NPR's Renee Montagne on Thursday's Morning Edition.

McClintock recently wrote a piece in The Hollywood Reporter about the disagreement, in which theater owners have asked movie studios to shorten the length of trailers from 2 1/2 minutes down to two. The reason? In their current form, theater owners argue, they both take up too much time and give away too much plot.

McClintock says the dispute could end in a couple of ways. The guidelines are voluntary anyway (and imposed by the Motion Picture Association of America, not theater owners), but certainly, the studios could choose to go along with the change, or with some change.

But studios are nervous that if there's no agreement, theater owners might just start refusing to play trailers at all unless they comply with the two-minute guideline. And even with the power of YouTube and other online outlets where trailers are seen, putting a trailer in a theater is still considered an enormously important part of marketing a film.

This entire area tends to be one of delicate negotiation, since theaters, after all, have their own reasons for wanting to help market films — especially in ways that make them look like great theater experiences. At the same time, going to the movies is expensive, and blockbusters seem to be getting longer all the time (even Star Trek into Darkness is well over two hours long, and The Avengers was almost 2 1/2). Theater owners understandably want to make the experience more pleasant, and if that means fewer trailers, they just might be willing.

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