National Association of Theater Owners Wants Shorter Film Trailers with Fewer Spoilers

Published 2 years ago by , Updated May 29th, 2013 at 3:21 pm,

Chloe Moretz in Carrie Remake Trailer National Association of Theater Owners Wants Shorter Film Trailers with Fewer Spoilers

Movie trailers have gotten longer – and more spoiler-happy – in recent years, as many a film buff has noticed (and complained about). Sometimes these theatrical previews include pivotal plot beats without the full context, like in the Ender’s Game trailer; other times, they include so many major story developments (see: the Carrie trailer) it can leave you feeling like you’ve just watched a truncated version of the movie.

Well, the National Association of Theater Owners (i.e. the other NATO) feels your pain, and is pushing for studios to cut down the length of movie trailers. The hope is that will result in more theatrically-released previews that better tease what a film has to offer – like the early Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel trailers (to use recent examples) – without giving away too many of the figurative cards in its hand, at the same time.

NATO wants the standard maximum running time for full-length movie trailers – including the exceptions to that policy (like the 3-minute R.I.P.D. trailer) – to be trimmed down from 2.5 minutes to two minutes flat, in order to cut down on both spoilers and the amount of time audiences have to spend waiting through trailers that are attached to the film they paid to see.

The 30-second trimming will make a difference, when it comes to shaving 3-5 minutes off the running time for blockbusters and tentpoles proceeded by some 7-8 trailers; though, studios and theaters might then choose to feature more trailers with each screening, so the overall waiting time ends up remaining the same (for better or for worse). Some people might even prefer that it remains unchanged, as they enjoy having that “cushion” in case they’re running extra-late to a screening.

tom hanks halle berry cloud atlas trailer National Association of Theater Owners Wants Shorter Film Trailers with Fewer Spoilers

Moreover, it’s not so much the length as it is the approach to trailer editing, which determines how much in the way of essential plot plots ends up being revealed. The six-minute Cloud Atlas trailer released online – which was condensed down to two minutes for theater viewing – was focused on encapsulating the experience of watching that film (to get people interested) – yet, it also gives away very little information about what, exactly, happens in any one of the picture’s multiple story-lines (as one example).

There’s also something to be said for marketing that only focuses on one aspect of a film’s narrative, leaving the rest to be discovered anew when you sit down in a theater (see: the trailers for Looper back in 2012). Some advertising approaches go so far as to include cut scenes and lines of dialogue, or they paint a misleading portrait of what the final movie result is. (Longtime readers may recall a related controversy over the marketing for Drive and Paranormal Activity 3 a couple years back.) There’s also the angle favored by the Anchorman 2 teasers, which do not include any actual footage from the film.

NATO is also hoping to establish new restrictions on studio marketing – like not allowing in-theater advertisements until four months ahead of a film’s release – or requiring all promotional material to include an official release date. However, it’s the trailer issue that has (and will continue to have) a more direct impact on the average moviegoer’s experience, both during a screening and the pre-release build-up.

Of course, NATO can only propose these ideas (not make them the new law), so it remains to be seen if studios will comply with the organization’s wishes in full…


How about it – would you like trailers to be shorter, have fewer spoilers, or both? What are you thoughts on NATO’s other proposed changes to movie marketing?

Source: National Association of Theater Owners [via /Film]

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  1. It’s like a strict rule to me. When I am interested in a movie,I make sure not to watch the third trailer nor TV Spots. I know in what era I live in so if there is a TV spot, I put the TV on Mute and close my eyes.
    My sister is worst than me, she only watches the first…
    The Magic of Movies is the Not Knowing. I was a baby when “Empire Strikes Back” came out in theater and the generation that had watched the movie in theatre could tell you How Much Shocked they were when Vader said: “I am your Father”. I was a kid watching it on TV and I remember that I froze when Vader said that Line.
    Nolan does not give too much when he is in Marketing mode and I have a feeling that if The MOS trailers has not given too much, is because the studio is following the same Formula.
    Although I didn’t fully like the origin story of the Mandarin, we can all agree that the marketing of IM3 was good imho, that’s why the twist caught everybody by surprise and I mean Everybody! That is good Marketing.
    MOS has a three minute trailer but you don’t feel like you have watched the whole movie.
    In the end, ut Hope that some studios find a smarter way to sell their movies. :)

    • Case and Point: The Vantage Point trailer.

    • That’s great until you go to the theatre to see a movie and the trailers are right there in your face.

  2. Maybe studios should just have footage shot just for the trailer so that while it may not be in the film, the tone and what not remains.

    • Good idea. There is nothing worse than seeing the whole film and surprise moments that would have been cool to see during the movie that is now spoiled because of the trailer.

      • You mean like Fast and Furious 6 where the ending is literally in the trailer?? lol

    • They did that for paranormal activity 3. Look how many people threw a fit over it.

  3. Such a great thing to suggest. Trailers should be 2 mins max., and maybe 1.30 to remain less ‘spoilerrific’. So much is revealed in trailers nowadays that I try to avoid seeing any interesting trailer more than once. And when one that I’m trying to avoid comes on in the previews in the cinema (like Prometheus), I close my eyes-not that that stops a few people noticing me! NATO have a great policy and they should be backed. I will take whatever action necessary to get them noticed. THEY WILL NOT BE IGNORED! Yeah.

  4. I totally agree. It’s so bad that these days I try to avoid trailers for films I’m going to see anyway. The only time I see them is when I’m actually in a theatre and basically have to watch it.

    And I definitely think they’ll put in another trailer rather than cut the total trailers time.

  5. I think as a rule the trailer should not contain any footage from the last act of the movie. The best trailers are pretty much what we call teasers now.

  6. I don’t think the length matters so much as the content. There have been many 2.5 minute trailers that don’t give away anything big, and they don’t feel like they’re too long or anything either. I do agree on cutting back on spoilers though. Even though this is TV trailers and not movie trailers, I think a good example of trailers done right are for Dexter. Those trailers always get you excited to see the new season (the whole point of a trailer for anything), and also make you feel like you’re seeing big things in the trailer, but it winds up only being from the first few episodes of the season every time. I think movie trailers could benefit from that too. Don’t cross the line of showing a misleading trailer (even though I liked the movie, Iron Man 3 trailer), but give the audience stuff to be excited about in it without giving away anything big.

  7. Yes fewer spoilers pls. Superman started off great but the tv spots are giving up all the action scenes.

  8. Censoring/ regulating trailers is a bit extreme. It boils down to us viewers. We should take more responsibility. If we don’t want the experience to be spoiled, then we should simply not watch the 2:30min trailer.

    Same logic applies when staying healthy. Hey, if I want to stay healthy, I monitor what I eat. But if I knowingly indulge in something that’s not good for me, I should accept the consequences.

    • It doesn’t boil down to the viewers because I shouldn’t have to close my eyes to avoid watching trailers in the theaters. It’s easy to avoid trailers at home, but it isn’t easy in the theater (and it’s essentially about theaters the article is talking about anyway.)

      And that food analogy doesn’t really work. It’s not like when you go to a restaurant you have people there trying to feed you McDonalds food down your throat.

      • Exactly. Unless I want to close my eyes and plug my ears and tell my friend to let me know when it’s over, I basically have to watch trailers in the theatre.

  9. I Support this idea. trailers show to damn much.

  10. I definitely agree with the shorter and less spoiler-happy trailers. Trailers should only show enough footage to tease the spectacle of the movie. I remember what happened a year ago, when someone combined all the available Amazing Spider-Man footage into a clip nearly 15 minutes long that essentially encapsulated the entire plot.

    A more recent example that I can think of is the Fast and Furious 6 trailer. I did see the movie in theaters, and I thought it was immense fun. But I noticed that the trailers had actually showcased nearly every action sequence in the movie. I watched the final sequence (with the plane) basically knowing exactly how it was going to finish because the trailer had already showed me the end of the scene.

    This is fairly common, with trailers showing shots of every major scene, whether it’s an action sequence, a conclusion shot, an emotional or dramatic beat, or a humorous quip. When the viewer actually watches the movie, they find that they have seen nothing new, only expanded versions.

  11. I agree with everyone here so far: please less spoilers! I, too, go out of my way to avoid the trailers of movies I really want to see.

    Has anyone else noticed that this trend of revealing more and more in trailers seems to coincide with the advent of these super big budget blockbusters? Are the studios hedging their bets to try and insure big box office? Of course. After all, we know that moviemaking to them is obviously all about making the most money they can. Which is fine…up to a point.

    But it is also why fans of any specific genre or character is never going to see the perfect movie. The suits are too busy dumbing everything down to appeal to the lowest common denominater to maximize box office.

  12. So I’m pretty sure this is because theaters are losing money because if a trailer tells too much of a movie, the watcher then loses interest in seeing it, which results in the theater losing money.

    The theaters are complaining that people don’t want to waste their money to see possible garbage? The fact that we (customers) are saving money because we have the opportunity to make up our mind a little more, they are complaining about.

    Sweet customer service. LOL.

  13. It would be nice to go to a screening and only get film trailers then the film rather than the tv adverts, then film trailers then eventually the film as we get in the UK. I guess the revenue makes the extra few hours each day of unpaid screening time for paid audiences worthwhile its just when your waiting for what you know to be a really good film to start it makes the time seem even longer.

  14. Wait… you mean to tell me you all know what that picture of Carrie means without knowing the story of Carrie?

    Oh…. no… you know the story of Carrie so you know the picture is a spoiler. Think about that for a minute. Take a little longer if some of you have to.

    The spoiler based on that picture is that there is a fire and Carrie is covered in blood. What does that actually spoil about the movie before you see it if you have never seen/read it?

    You dont know why she is covered in blood, you dont know why there is a fire.

    I will spoil the next Avengers movie. They win in the end.

    I work in security and there is a thing called aggregated data (its also a statistical thing which is about the same thing). This happens when you have little pieces of a whole that by themselves are nothing. However when you put them together you make a greater whole of an item.

    So yes between movie trailers, books, articles, commercials, interviews, pictures, etc we receive information in little pieces that make a whole that could be considered spoilers.

    If you can show me a movie trailer (just one) that spoils and includes everything in the movie that could be spoiled let me know. For example if you had a trailer that had Haley tell Bruce he is a ghost to his face that we could all understand what was going on then yes thats a spoiler that spoils the whole movie.

    That was the catch and premise of the movie. If I see Ironman falling and Hulk catches him the movie is not spoiled.

  15. My major complaint is bad comedy. They throw every funny bit in the trailer and you discover that’s all there was. I guess that’s good marketing, but it really sucks to watch the movie and realize you already seen all there was to see

  16. Stop with the lazy marketing. Make us interested without giving everything away.

    We hit rock-bottom with MI: Ghost Protocol. They spoil most of the film DURING THE OPENING TITLE SEQUENCE. I have no idea what they were thinking.

  17. trailers are fine the way they are, shut up theater owners

  18. I’ve worked at a movie theater for many years now, and I’m sick & tired of people saying how there is a half hour of previews on every movie. My theater has no more than 10-12 minutes of trailers tops on every film. Sandy is over-exaggerating about standard trailers running 3 minutes. It’s extremely rare for trailers to run longer than 2mins 30secs. Trailers in the 40′s/50′s/60′s/70′s ran 4-5 mins. Peoples attention spans have just shortened to the point of stupidity. Besides, even if trailers became shorter it doesn’t mean that plots can’t still be spoiled or manipulated to mislead audiences to what they want to see.


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