Coming Attractions Are Costing Studios Big Bucks

As well-known comedian Dane Cook notes in his show Vicious Circle, no matter our profession, we all love watching movie previews at the theater. Why? Because it is the one time we get to be movie critics. You know as soon as the trailer ends, you’re going to turn to the person sitting next to you and review that film…“Hey, that looks awesome, we HAVE to go see that!” or “That one looks really stupid.” While Dane Cook may be poking fun at society’s behavior toward movie previews, he does raise an important point: previews are a valuable chance for the movie studios to have 20 minutes of moviegoers’ undivided attention to market upcoming releases.  


Previews help drive sales for movie studios’ upcoming productions, and viewers enjoy seeing them, otherwise the studios wouldn’t produce them and theaters wouldn’t play them. But now, theater owners – also realizing the value of having a captive audience for studios’ marketing messages in their theaters – are capitalizing on this business opportunity by charging movie companies to run their trailers before feature films.


The nation’s largest cinema chain, Regal Entertainment Group, recently cut the number of trailers that studios can run with their own movies for free from two to one. Four of the major studios – 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. – reportedly have made annual marketing deals worth several million dollars with theater chains such as Regal and AMC Entertainment. In exchange for paying the chain, the studios are exempt from the one-free-trailer-only rule and get the best possible placement along with benefits like special advertising in lobbies and on popcorn bags. Walt Disney Studios and Paramount Pictures don’t have such deals, while smaller studios may pay as much as $100,000 to play a trailer for one film.


This increasingly common practice affects jobs in the film industry – particularly entertainment marketing jobs. If your company is not one of the ones paying for trailers, you could be left struggling for placement in theaters. For film marketers, negotiation and networking with theaters and studios to establish, nurture and maintain marketing partnerships will probably become a more exaggerated part of your job description in order to get satisfactory placement for your film at the theater to ensure success.


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