Frame By Frame: Commercials in a Movie Theater Near You

Frame By Frame: Commercials in a Movie Theater Near You


Hi. I’m Wheeler Winston Dixon, James Ryan professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and this is Frame By Frame. When you go to the movies you expect to see a movie… but you don’t expect to see commercials. But more and more these days, you’re seeing commercials in front of a movie. It’s even gotten to the point where they have what they now call a “pre-show”… which is actually about 15 or 16 commercials strung together for a variety of different products… You know, soft drinks, cars, things like that… Things that they think the audience will buy, which is 18 to 24 year olds. Although this is new in America, it is not new in Europe. I remember in the 1960s, when I went to Europe to see a screening of “Rebecca”… I was shocked by the practice, which is still prevalent in Europe, of what’s called a “pause.” They run the first 10 minutes of the film, and then they stop it dead… and then they run commercials on the screen, and they have a break… where they walk up and down selling ice cream sandwiches and pop corn… completely interrupting the movie. And I remember the first time I witnessed that, I turned to someone in the audience and asked… “How many pauses are we going to have to sit through?” And they said, “just one.” But it’s a real interruption. So this is a practice that’s been going on for a long time in Europe, and now it’s come to America. Why? Because theater chains are in trouble. Theater chains just aren’t making as much money as they should on their films… And also you have to realize that studios have what’s called a “90/10 split” on the first week. Most of money goes to the studio. Only 10% goes to the theater. And since most movies these days are what’s called “front loading”… They make all of their money in the first couple of weeks… Even though the split increases for the theater as it goes out into the second and third and fourth week… or “frame,” as they call it in the business… it’s just not that much money. So commercials, unfortunately I’m afraid, are here to stay. When a movie says it’s going to start at 1:30, I usually show up a 1:45, and miss all of the commercials… and that’s pretty much what I recommend that you do. Commercials are, unfortunately, part of the contemporary movie scene, and will stay that way… But it’s necessary to maintain the theatrical experience… and that’s what we really need to do to keep films in theaters. I’m Wheeler Winston Dixon, and this is Frame By Frame.

2 thoughts on “Frame By Frame: Commercials in a Movie Theater Near You

  1. Very enjoyable video

    Surprised he didn't mention the pre-show of trailers though. Usually that's about 15 minutes from start time. Often you'll have the commercials (soda, retail, etc) shown before that 15 minute trailer block

  2. I know I'm in the minority but I like the commercials and the trailers! I get there early and enjoy it all. Every once in a while a trailer spoils a movie (the movie the trailer is for) but otherwise I enjoy it and consider it part of a complete movie going experience. If they stopped the movie 10 min in, however, I think I would just stay home.

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