Monday, July 26, 2010


According to today's New York Times, the marketeers at Screenvision announced plans last week to upgrade the "preshow experience" in movie theaters that subscribe to their service.  The preshow, for those of you dwelling in blissful ignorance, consists of banner ads, mindless trivia challenges, various interstitials and grotesquely overproduced PSAs, like those National Guard ads featuring Kid Rock and Three Doors Down.  (At least, I think it was Three Doors Down.  Either them or Nickelback.  Some shitty band or other.  Like I would know; those ads were so bad they'd inevitably make me flee to the lobby until they were over.)

I doubt there's a filmgoer on the planet who actually enjoys sitting through these things, but Screenvision believes negative reactions from audiences can be turned around by throwing even more shit onscreen before the movie starts.  Their new "advertainment" block--and incidentally, every time someone uses the word "advertainment", an angel is cast into hell--will consist of sponsored Nascar footage, video clips of Timbaland apparently just hanging out and talking to us and a so-far-unspecified use of Paula Abdul.

You can understand why the folks at Screenvision spend their time dreaming up nonsense like this--it's their job, after all.  And they allegedly have the numbers to prove it: The Times cites a Nielsen study claiming in-theater advertising was one of the few aspects of the ad world to show growth in 2009.

That's presumably due to the fact that theater owners are faced with dwindling attendance a smaller slice of the box-office take, thanks to increasingly outrageous demands from distributors.  But what the numbers don't take into account is how many potential filmgoers actually stay away precisely because of the preshow spectacle. 

Even if you only get to the theater ten minutes before showtime, you're still bombarded with ads that whole time, followed by an endless onslaught of trailers.  By the time the movie itself starts, you've already spent a full half-hour or so sitting in the dark watching images on a screen, and exhaustion has set in.  If there's a movie I'm on the fence about seeing, I usually decide to wait for the DVD, mostly because the moviegoing experience is so actively unpleasant these days, and I'm sure I'm not alone.

People know when they are being treated like chimps in a Skinner box, and they resent it.  All the advertainment in the world can't change that.