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. Only problem is that some films can be difficult to explain the concept down in order for an audience to see the actual film. So the trailer would need to filled and enriched with enough material to attract basic attention towards the film. 2.5 to 2 minutes is not along enough. I would say 3 minutes maximum should be good for basic theatrical trailers. Trailers are always something I enjoy and look forward to seeing in theaters and I don’t want them to be cut so short quick especially if they don’t show that many. I agree many of them are plot happy but it could be worked around so easily.

  2. Good call with “Carrie” picture and this article.

    I love that trailer, because I haven’t been living under a cultural rock for the last 20 years.

    The trailer is like movie cliff-notes without the ending.

    But I can see how if you have no prior knowledge of Carrie, showing her dripping in blood would be quite the spoiler…


    What if the point was to promote that image to draw fans of the original?

    Quite the conundrum.

    If you want my vote for worst trailer spoiler ever-

    It would be Hulk catching Iron Man

    • Yes sir…
      Even though most of us were smart enough to know Iron Man wouldn’t face any real harm in The Avengers by showing Hulk catching him in every single trailer it killed all the tension and drama for that scene.

      • Nah, the worst trailer is for The Grey…the scene with the wolves and the bottles is the last scene of the movie before fading to black…

        • Dude… if I had no prior knowledge of that scene and in the theater was the first time I saw Hulk catch Iron Man, I probably would have pooped myself.

          Not that it matters in the end, but I always wonder how that particular moment would have been if not spoiled…

  3. Something has to change…
    My idea has long been that the time allotted to show trailers should be equal to the length of the end credits.
    That would mean you’d only have to sit through 5-7 minutes of trailers and if you go to see a 2 hour movie that starts at 4:00 you’re out by 6:00 – 6:10 if you stay through the the credits.
    It’s become insane. Especially if you go to see a movie like The Hobbit. If you get there early because of crowds, sit through 15 minutes of adds and trailers and then watch a 3 hour movie it could be almost 3 1/2 – 3 3/4 hours sitting in a theater.
    Maybe when I was a younger lad this wouldn’t bother me so much but lately it’s actually affecting the movies I will or won’t see in the theater.

  4. I totally agree. For example neither myself or any one I know is going to see the new Chris Hemsworth movie RUSH because basically the trailer tells the whole story, or at least what looks like it could be the whole story. I feel like I already saw the movie so why pay another $12 (At least $12) to see the same thing in a drawn out 2 hours plus version. It was the same thing for Daniel Craig’s movie Dream House. Trailers are too long and tell too much.

  5. I like watching trailers in the theaters, but I don’t enjoy when they seem to give away the whole movie, so I have to agree with NATO on this one. Too many times, after watching a trailer, I’ve felt like there is no need to see the actual movie because they’ve just shown it to me in a 3 minute version. It requires some creativity, but there are definitely ways to get the audience excited about seeing your movie without completely spoiling it for them.

  6. The Carrie thing makes no sense to me. It’s a remake of a pretty well-known film. Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last 30 or so years, you know the Carrie story that a longer/spoiler-y trailer really won’t ruin anything for you.

    Aside from that, I’m all for cutting the length of trailers. I’m like Frank Costanza in that I like to “go in fresh” when I see a flick. I would like more movies to follow the Anchorman 2 model and not show anything. That works for a well-established comedy, but probably wouldn’t work for a newer movie or a more serious one. Since using that model for every film isn’t doable, and getting rid of trailers altogether is even a more ridiculous idea (though it is one I’d support), I guess shorter, less spoiler-y ones are the way to go.

  7. I don’t mind spoilers, so I don’t really care. I’ll always end up seeing it.

  8. that’s because audiences are harder to convince to go watch a movie nowadays, I say don’t do it, just let them be. Luckily for me my movie is gonna own the summer and we didn’t have to show too much.

    • Own the summer? Would that mean make the most money? I do not see this filming doing a billion worldwide. I believe it will be good but people still have the taste of a lot of bad super man movies

  9. 15 years ago we had no internet, no cellphones, and so on… so people wanted to be entertained and went to the movies just because they were bored. Now you have to really make em want to watch the movie so they can get off the internet and their cellphones and go to the theater, so I think it’s bad if they make trailers shorter and show less, people aren’t gonna be interested.

  10. 2 minutes is the perfect runtime for a trailer IMO. That Carrie trailer and some others gave so much away, this is a good move.

  11. The most effective (not best just effective) trailer of the year has to be the anchorman trailers. It drops some funny jokes that make you laugh while showing you nothing about the film.

    • that’s right trey boy, but not all movies are the same

    • @ Trey
      Totally agree.
      I realize it won’t work for other films but if every trailer for Anchorman were like that I’d be 100% ok with it.

    • the reason why they show so many trailers is MONEY so that ain’t gonna change. savi?

      • Yeah, I get that. Basically, this whole thing is really about the theater owners and the movie studios wrestling over screen time and money.

        I know it’s wishful thinking, but it’d be nice if us viewers were considered at some point.

    • I’m 31, I can’t remember ever going to a movie without sitting through 15-20 mins of trailers. How far back in time do you have to go to remember seeing a movie without the obligatory 20 mins of previews?

      • You’re right. I was likely underplaying it when I said 15-20 minutes. Whatever the actual duration was, it felt long enough for me and many others in the theater to notice that it was going on for more than normal.

        BTW, the movie was Iron Man 3.

  12. You’d think the studios would realize they’ve overhyped their product so much that the moves themselves can’t possibly live up to the expectations. Disney/Marvel are, in my opinion, notorious for this. Part of the magic of movies is the mystery of walking into a theater not already knowing what to expect.

    • @Jason

      Your absolutely right –“over-hyped” is the operative word. No movie can lived up to outsized, unrealistic expectations. This could hobble MAN OF STEEL.

    • Agreeing with you, Jason. I like to be surprised when watching a movie and often close my eyes when the trailers are onscreen.

  13. Complaining about revealing trailers for a movie that is a remake of a 30 year old movie, that was a adaptation from a best selling book, is (for lack of a better term) retarded. We all know the plot, we all know how it ends.

    • @ JP
      Sorry but I disagree.
      First of all, you can’t assume that just because something is a remake, based on a book or 30yrs old that “we all” know how it ends.
      Especially for a movie like Carrie where the end is supposed to be the biggest surprise or shocking moment.
      If they remade The Sixth Sense or The Usual Suspects 30yrs from now would it be ok to reveal the end in the trailers just because most of us already know what happens?

      • Plus there are people who have never heard of Carrie or those of us who never read the book or saw the original movie but have a vague idea of the plot without knowing too much about what actually happens.

        Also, using the word “retarded” kinda invalidated whatever point you were trying to make.

  14. When I finish watching a trailer and go “Well now I don’t have to drop $14.00 a ticket to go see it. I can wait until it comes out for rental.” there is something wrong. Showing me all the big “WOO!” moments is fine in teasing but don’t give the whole thing away.

  15. Forbid them to show anything past 45min into actual screentime, then you have solution.

    I really enjoy watching trailers in the cinema, it gives me a far better feeling on how a movie is worth or not worth to be watched on a big screen. A youtube video just can’t do that.

    I don’t see how 2min trailers are going to stop them from showing us a 2sec spoiler of the ending of a movie though. If they want to fail badly, they will.

    The bad commercials in cinemas on the otherhand, i could live without.

    • Your ‘nothing past 45 minutes’ idea is a good one! (too bad the movie marketing departments will NEVER agree to that)

  16. I personally would totally welcome this. Trailers are nice, but ones that include key scenes are ridiculous.

    My bigger problem would be for them to push for not making the trailer seem totally different than the movie actually is!!!
    Or including all the comedic parts of a movie in one trailer!!

    An example would be featuring an antagonist in a trailer who really has nothing to do with the story.
    The Man of Steel trailers have done a pretty good job in my opinion of keeping the trailers nice and short. And I’m sure there are other examples, Man of Steel just being the most recent.

    • Cloverfield did it well too. No one knew what the hell was going on until they actually saw the movie on release day, even with the viral websites and other hidden goodies giving brief hints but never actually saying anything about what was happening.

      In fact, I put that as just edging ahead of TDK in terms of 2008’s best movie marketing campaigns.

      • Completely Agree.
        I’d say probably like 80% of movie trailers do a decent job of creating buzz and adding mystery so that people want to go see it.
        And the other 20% just give away too much, or twist the story around within those three minutes of trailer footage.

  17. no way i like trailers as they are, it fuels curiosity for all so they determine that the movie watch worthy.

  18. I agree with this and it’s funny because in his review of Fast And Furious 6, Mark Kermode said “basically, if you’ve seen the trailer, for some reason or another the studio decided to give away the ending as well as all other major action scenes in that”.

    It’s a really stupid idea to do that.

    I like the short trailers that don’t show much of anything because then it gets you interested in what it could be. Then closer to release, show a little of the actual movie to let people decide whether they think they’ll enjoy it or not.

    I guess the problem with that is that it seems US audiences in particular like to watch crappy movies despite a trailer telling you in advance that the movie will suck and having even less material in a trailer will only increase that problem.

    Fine line that needs to be considered long and hard (that’s what she said…) before making a final decisionbut I have to say, I like getting to my seat when the house lights are still up and there’s a blank screen waiting for showtime because I love watching trailers.

    I went to the Terminator Salvation premiere and was disappointed to find out there’d be no trailers shown before the movie, that’s how much I enjoy them.

  19. Oh and I just remembered, it wasn’t good going to the IM3 release day screening and not only getting the very first MOS teaser instead of trailer 3, we also had to watch pretty much the entire highway tank chase sequence as a Fast And Furious 6 “Cineworld exclusive preview”.

    By the end of what was probably 5-10 minutes (but felt like forever), I was just so bored and determined not to watch that movie for a long time because of that experience. I just thank the gods that IM3 wasn’t a disappointment or that day would’ve been ruined.

  20. I suspect NATO wants shorter trailers so the theater owners can show more local commercials (= more income).

  21. The problem isn’t just the excess running time for movie ads. Trailers, collectively, have gone on for as long as 40 minutes; this includes film previews, commercial advertising, and ads for television shows. If you’re running late for a showing, it’s a good thing, I guess; but if you’re already there, well, you’ve pretty much have died and gone to hell.

    What can be said about too much information in a movie trailer? Studios/distributors desperate to beat the competition is willing to give up the premise, plot, exposition, denouement and resolution of any given film in the hope of winning the attention (and future business) of the moviegoer –failing to realize how much that moviegoer may be pissed off.

    On the one hand, a “standardized” 2-minute running time for all trailers is unfair; each film (theoretically) is unique, therefore requires a “customized” length of time to convey whatever might intrigue the viewer to notice the movie and maybe take an interest.

    But on the other hand, if Hollywood keep making the same movie over and over, really, people…one trailer fits all.

  22. Worst marketing campaign goes to Iron Man 3, worst slight of hand cheat EVER.

    • How?

      Oh, it’s another of those silly Mandarin complaints isn’t it? Ok, never mind.

  23. Totally agree, need shorter trailers, I feel like I’ve seen most of the movie if I watch it, online, although you always have the option to not view it, it’s Man of steel that’s really starting to bug me WB. Are really trying to push this!!!! it’s their last chance for Superman.

  24. Well if they weren’t rehashing the same movies and the same plot points, maybe we wouldn’t feel like we’ve seen it all. Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of trailers that I’ve seen that I have felt were basically the movie minus the extra fluff. With all the reboots and remakes, every time I see a trailer, I feel like I already know the plot points and how it will end

  25. I just wish better judgement was used when pairing trailers to the movie being shown. Not everyone one wants to see the Carrie trailer which contains child abuse and violent imagery when they go see Iron Man 3

  26. Meh, I’m fine with the way trailers are.
    The key is how MANY trailers you watch.

    I usually only watch the first two trailers of a movie, and try to avoid as many tv spots as possible (which isn’t that difficult), and when I see the movie, most of it goes unspoiled…

    The people who watch every single trailer and clip because of their excitement, shouldn’t get to complain since it’s their own fault imo.

    As a matter of fact, the people who watch every trailer and clip tend to be the people who’ll see the movie regardless, since they’re usually the fans. Trailers are actually meant to attract and “sell” the movie to people who are unsure about seeing it – and those people tend to be the people who only see trailers every now and then (they certainly don’t go on YouTube and search for every single piece of footage).

  27. Shorten the trailers, sure. Take out the spoilers, I agree with that. But mostly, get rid of the f’n cell phone, automobile, and soda pop commercials. That annoys me so much. I can watch those on TV. The movie theater is supposed to be a cinematic experience that’s all about movies. Not some dumb commercial that airs twenty times during my viewing of Glee…I mean Grimm, I meant GRIMM.

  28. 2 minute trailers are just fine. But I do agree they need less spoilers. Elysium is the perfect example of a great trailer. Shows just enough to draw you in but spoilers nothing more then the basic concept. A man breaks into Elysium with some kind of super suite to save people on earth. Does he win? Does he lose? Does jodie foster die? Does anything he do impact every one else around him? Does that guy with that sword get killed? Does he betray jodie foster? I don’t know but it sure as hell looks cool!

    Of course ive had planned seeing elysium sense it was announced.