Few Protests Over Theater Ads, Say Movie Chains
Despite numerous published commentaries of late about how movie theater ads are driving away patrons, exhibitors maintain that they have received few complaints from the public about them and that many moviegoers actually like them. Pam Blase, a spokeswoman for AMC Entertainment, which operates the country's second-largest movie chain, told the Houston Chronicle that the chain receives one complaint for every 600,000 guests. Terrell Falk of Cinemark USA, the nation's third-largest chain, added that recent research concluded that filmgoers regard ads as "just part of the experience." His remarks were echoed by Jim Kozak, editor-in-chief of In Focus, the magazine of the National Association of Theater Owners. "When [patrons] get there early to get a really good seat, they like to have something to keep them busy, something to do besides talk to the person they came with."
Wait, we were supposed to be complaining? What, like going up and talking to someone in person? Why would we want to do that? That's worse than watching the commercials. Would it have had an effect? Who knew? Theater commercials are just bad enough to be annoying, but you're not going to get up out of your seat or hang around after the movie's over to stage a picket line. Maybe we should? "Hey hey, ho ho, theater ads have got to go!" Surely they'll listen if it rhymes.
Or maybe people who really don't like ads are complaining in a non-verbal way. By, say, not going to theaters anymore. Hmm? Maybe the startling audience dropoff is too subtle an avenue of complaint.
They are not getting it. They do not realize their research pool is composed of people who have already decided to tolerate commercials. This is like doing a study on a group of people who have been vaccinated for Polio and concluding that Polio is not a thing that does any harm.
Commercials are "just part of the experience" the way scraping and drilling are "just part of going to the dentist." The fact that people are jaded and used to it doesn't mean they like it.
People may not consciously say, "I will not go to the movies due to commercials" (although some do), but I doubt that inextricably linking commercials with theaters is luring people in. It's more a subtle thing, along with all the other annoyances of the theater, that your mind weighs when determining whether seeing a certain movie is worth it. As discussed in the previous post, it is one of many things tipping the mental balance scale Against Going to the Movies. This side of the scale includes Crowds, Expensiveness, and the alternatives of Video Games, TiVo, Netflix, and Piracy, whereas the sole item to tip the scale towards theatergoing is a movie so attractive you must see it on the big screen and not wait two months for the DVD. Given all this, you would think you would not want to add anything, however feather-light, to the Not Going to the Movies side of the scale.
Then again, what do I know? All I have is the anecdotal testimony of everyone I know, versus the word of Professional Men for whom theatrical commercials are in the self-interest.
I guess I didn't realize we were supposed to go to the theater with people whose company we loathe. It makes much more sense now. When I was catching up with my pal Dave before Batman Begins, and the commercials started up and drowned out our conversation, I forgot to be grateful for the diversion. Silly me, not recognizing that social interaction with one's moviegoing companion is a bothersome chore at best. I should be thanking the higher-ups who saw people going to movies and thought, "Two hours of not talking to one another is not enough--surely there is a way to save people the trouble of talking before the movie even begins."
So thank you, Theater-Owning Experts. I guess the fact that everyone stopped going to theaters at the same time you started this valuable service is just an unfortunate coincidence. That's the great thing about having multiple reasons for an audience drop-off. If you're a studio, you can blame the theaters. If you're a theater owner, you can blame the Internet. No one has to accept any responsibility for actually driving people away.