You asked, and movie theaters listened!

Wait, no. They did the exact opposite of listening. Figures!

A new article in Bloomberg reports that some theater chains are getting “more aggressive” with their pre-feature commercials as a means to combat a dip in attendance this year. While the biggest chain in the country, AMC Theatres, isn’t changing their pre-show format, several other companies — including Regal and Cinemark — are going to add “six minutes of commercials” to the lineup of ads they already run before the feature presentation. And unlike the usual pre-show ads, which run in a block before the announced showtime, these new ads will screen after the scheduled feature’s start time, and will be placed between the trailers for upcoming movies.

As Bloomberg explains, this is a big shift for many theaters:

The more aggressive commercials would mark a big change for U.S. theater chains. Previously pre-show ads ran before the posted movie showtime. Now they’ll run after that point, including during the trailers, a switch that’s already sparking controversy. Since most fans are seated and glued to the screen by that point, the final ad is being marketed by the company as a ‘platinum spot.’

While I am sympathetic to movie theaters who are struggling to keep up their bottom line in the face of attendance declines, I also worry these ads do more harm than good in the long run. Theaters are already competing with the convenience and accessibility of home theaters and streaming services. When theaters started adding these elaborate pre-shows full of commercials a decade or two ago, audiences were used to sitting through commercials at home. In 2019, it’s very easy to go days or weeks watching TV without observing a single commercial, either by fast-forwarding through them on a DVR, or by watching television shows on any number of streaming services — almost none of which have commercials.

Plus, most of these streaming options offer unlimited content for less per month than the price of a single theatrical ticket. So on one hand we have unlimited content, available instantly, at home (or anywhere you can get a wifi signal), in a quiet, comfortable place, with no commercials. On the other hand, we have maybe a two hour movie we have to drive or walk or subway to, where there might be rude, loud customers, and a ton of commercials. Which sounds like the premium experience to you?!?

It just seems like a desperate grab for short-term bucks at the cost of long-term business. The number one thing theaters should be doing to drive revenue right now is making themselves more inviting to potential customers, not less. Adding six more minutes of commercials does not achieve that goal.

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