Thursday, May 05, 2005

Want to complain about all the pre-movie commercials at theatres?

Yahoo! News reports that Loews theatres will start advertising "approximate" start times for the actual movie, not just the various commercials.

People don't realize that the advertisements in the movie theatre are what keep their ticket prices from being more expensive. Ads are actually quite critical revenue for theatres, who make very little money (if any) from tickets themselves. Theatres have to pay so much for movies that their real profit is at the concession stand. It's true that businesses could stop advertising, that they'd pass it to consumers in the form of lower product prices, and that it would offset any increase in movie ticket prices. However, there wouldn't be the promotion of a particular business through advertising. Advertisements are generally quite effective, otherwise companies wouldn't have done them for decades.

What if you don't like the ads?
Audiences have finally begun to rebel, launching www.captiveaudience.org, a campaign petitioning theater chains to end the practice, and Commercial Alert, a Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit dedicated to reducing the over-commercialization of American culture.

"Stating when the actual movie starts is an improvement, but doesn't change our opinion that TV commercials have no place in movie theaters," Jason Thompson, director of Captive Motion Picture Audience of America, tells E! Online. "We don't get commercials on HBO, pay-per-view or other movie services that we pay for, so why should we tolerate them in theaters?"

Ditto Commercial Alert's executive director, Gary Ruskin, who points to a study by Connecticut-based research firm Insight Express that stated a majority of moviegoers don't want to see premovie ads.
It's the difference between HBO, pay-per-view and basic cable like TNT: premium cable or PPV have minimal commercials (premium channels will advertise their own shows), but basic cable shows commercials so it can charge its customers less. What's so hard to understand?

If moviegoers shouldn't have to tolerate advertisements in the theatre, how well they would tolerate higher ticket prices that would inevitably result from the threatres not showing ads? I wonder how many of this "majority of moviegoers" would still go to theatres as frequently if they had to pay a few dollars more per ticket? The advertisements (and the resulting slightly higher prices for all goods and services relying on the advertising) make the cost more transparent, more distributed, more palatable to the consumer. They also bring in new customers so the business can expand.
Even politicians are now entering the fray. Andrew M. Fleischmann, a Connecticut state representative, made headlines last month when he introduced a bill calling for exhibitors to post the actual start times. Perhaps not so coincidentally, Loews will begin its reel time experiment in Connecticut. New York City Councilwoman Gale A. Brewer sponsored similar legislation.
Wrong answer. The correct move is to let the free market take care of it. Theatres like Loews, which voluntarily post "true" start times, will do better than the other businesses who don't. Similarly, a theatre not showing ads could charge the "true" price of tickets, several dollars more. To those who really dislike the ads, the higher ticket price would be worth it. How much is your time worth?

How about me? Well, I rarely go to the movies. The last time I was in the theatre was to see "The Italian Job" (almost two years ago now). I fidget a lot in the theatre and prefer to wait to rent it on DVD.

3 Comments:

Blogger Quincy said...

If the ads REALLY bother people that much, why don't theater operators charge extra for a ticket with the time the movie will really start on it?

Thursday, May 05, 2005 3:28:00 AM  
Blogger Brad Warbiany said...

The thing is, people are still going to show up early enough to get a good seat/etc. I'm like Perry in that I almost never go to movies, but the ads, while annoying, aren't the reason for that.

The problem is that people just simply don't understand simple economics. Do you really think all these movie theatre owners are living so high on the hog? I don't, because if they were, other theatres could come in and stop showing the ads, or show them and lower ticket prices, and consumers would flock to them. Legislating a solution is rarely a good idea, and almost never solves the actual problem, but that doesn't stop people from advocating it.

Thursday, May 05, 2005 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger Quincy said...

Brad, if people are fed up enough to be pushing legislation, theater owners could make some extra cash by charing extra if people want to know the "reel" movie time is.

The funny thing about it is that they'll still show up five minutes early to get a good seat and be exposed to the ads, but they'll *think* they got a better deal.

Friday, May 06, 2005 1:52:00 AM  

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