Theater Owners Call For Shorter Movie Trailers, Fewer Spoilers

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Credit: 20th Century Fox

Do you think movie trailers are too long? Give away too much? Debut way too soon before a movie opens? NATO feels your pain.

No, not that NATO. The National Association of Theatre Owners, a trade organization representing more than 31,000 movie screens in all 50 states, and additional theaters in 78 countries, released Monday final voluntary “in-theater marketing guidelines” for movie theaters in North America.

According to NATO, the guidelines are designed to “maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of the industry’s marketing efforts and to promote competition.”

The new guidelines call for (or because they’re voluntary, suggest) a maximum trailer length of two minutes; and marketing lead-time is limited to 150 days/5months prior to release date for trailers and 120 days/4 months for all other in-theatre marketing materials (i.e. lobby posters, stands, etc.)

Industry analysts seem to agree the new two-minute trailer length limit is intended to encourage studios to stop making trailers mini Wikipedia entries for the entire plot of films.

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Under the guidelines two exemptions per distributor per year will be allowed for both trailer length and marketing lead-time, assuming a distributor voluntarily agrees to follow the guidelines.

The new guidelines take effect on October 1st, and because they’re voluntary distributors like Disney and 20th Century Fox aren’t required to follow them, but it appears NATO is issuing the guidelines with the assumption the distributors will want to stay in good graces with exhibitors that are members of NATO.

Of course the guidelines also don’t address trailer length and the timing of marketing pushes on the Internet. NATO’s new guidelines also don’t address the number of trailers shown before films, which may be more of a factor contributing to moviegoer trailer fatigue than individual length.

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