You say theater, I say cinema. You say potato, I say potaato (who on earth says potaato?)

You say theater, I say cinema. You say potato, I say potaato (who on earth says potaato?)

Repost of our CEO Adam’s blog post earlier this week about the new guidelines set out by the The National Association of Theater Owners .

Cinema owners in the US are represented by The National Association of Theater Owners (NATO?) and they have recently come forward with a new set of guidelines for movie studios in regards to theatrical marketing. How delightfully proactive of them, I’d like to give them a few pointers on how they market their theaters – but anyhow.

The major highlights are listed below:

  • All movie trailers should be under two minutes
  • Trailers shouldn’t run more than 150 days in advance of release
  • Other movie related material (in-theatre such as standees, posters or banners) shouldn’t be displayed more than 120 in advance of release
  • Theaters would offer two exemptions on these, perhaps for the likes of a Hunger Games or a Star Wars (i.e. the films where they make their money)
  • Trailers must be rating appropriate to the feature you are watching
  • Trailers can’t feature third party brands or endorsements
  • Trailers can’t use anything that encourages phone usage such as online URL’s

It’s unclear at this stage how strictly enforced these guidelines will be but if pushed forward, this would represent a major shake-up for the industry. I imagine many consumers will look at these guidelines and nod their heads in agreement. Trailers have been considered too long for too long. Teaser trailers running 6 months pre-release is taking valuable space in the ad reel in a highly competitive market (crippling the independent market). In-theater material is building up in stock cupboards and becoming increasingly more difficult to assemble as everyone looks to stand out from the competition. Probably the most unrealistic ask here is for trailers to run without online URL’s. Theaters do not have the right to prevent studios from directing consumers to their owned channels – this one made me shake my head in frustrated disagreement.

It feels to me though like everyone is missing the point. The most powerful marketing tool the film industry has is the trailer (recent Fandango research said 89% of people that pre-booked their Lego Movie tickets did so due to the trailer) and as such the marketing for a film usually starts with a poster (in-theater material) and a trailer (designed for the movie theater). These images subsequently find their way online where the majority of consumers complain about the length because hey, we live in a YouTube generation where 60 seconds is usually more than enough, never mind 180 seconds. You just wait for the Vine generation to find its voice.

My point is, lets use these guidelines to start changing the way we use content. Trailers don’t need to run in cinema 6 months before release. According to Google research, 40% of cinema ticket buying decisions are made on the day so in-theater trailering is better focused on imminent releases. Trailers also don’t need to be over 2 minutes. There is no research to say a longer trailer has more of an impact on intent to view than a shorter one. If you want to extend your story, take it online but do it in a smart way, not with the same content. As we always say, relevant content for relevant channels. In-theater material needs an overhaul. Posters, standees, banners – all static material that doesn’t drive engagement outside of the room you’re in. Lets start looking at low cost interactive material using the likes of Blippar which can bring static material to life. If you’re making less material and you only have a smaller window to show your wares in theater, you can afford the increased unit costs.

I have always been a big proponent of using the in-theater space smartly. If you spend £30m on a TV buy to reach 300 million people, you are wasting huge amounts of your spend given only 10% of that audience are cinema goers. However, if you advertise in the theater you are speaking directly to your audience in a highly engaging environment. I have also been a big proponent of using the right content on the right platforms. There is NO reason why you can’t see one trailer made specifically for the cinema, and one made specifically for Facebook. Audiences consume content in different ways on different channels. Its about time the film industry acknowledged this. I can’t wait for the day we have an online trailer break before the movie theater and both pieces of content are completely different (but with the same call to action).

The point about not using anything that encourages online usage gets my goat. That, for me, is the responsibility of the theater owner. Look at The Arclight, a theater that doesn’t allow talking or phone usage during the movie. It works incredibly well and I enjoy my cinema going experience more there than anywhere else. Trailers need to have a call to action. Like it or not, they are pieces of marketing content that can cost up to a $1m to create. Content has to lead the conversation beyond just the environment you’re in and I would like to see more of this, not less. It feels to me like there is a good workaround solution that works for both parties, exhibitor and distributor. It involves smart marketing and a move away from the traditional model that’s been around since the 1990’s. Perhaps together we can #changefilm