New Survey Says People Want to See Less Trailers Before Movies

General atmosphere during the IMAX private screening for First Man at the IMAX AMC Theater on October 10, 2018 in New York City.
Photo: Lars Niki / Stringer (Getty Images)

We love trailers here at io9—there are few things about movies better than, well, y’know, good entire movies. An artful teaser can inspire intrigue (and a desire to break its secrets down), dazzle the eyes, or evoke powerful tone without saying much in the way of actual information at all. But a new survey says that less is more rather literally.

Published by The Hollywood Reporter and Morning Consult, the survey—from a sample size of just 2,200 people, so don’t declare it entirely definitive, at least—found that 59% percent of respondents preferred seeing only one to three trailers (rarely more than two minutes apiece, thanks to National Association of Theater Owners guidelines issued in 2014) before a movie. Considering a typical theater chain like AMC or Regal can have a 20 minute pre-show containing 5 to 8 trailers on average—something only about 29% of the surveyed respondents wanted to see— that seems like it could be bad news, especially if, like us, you actually don’t mind trailers being part of the experience.

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Even as someone who, by both the nature of my job and as someone who likes keeping up with movie news, watches a lot of trailers as they break online—long before I’ll ever actually see them in a movie theater—there’s still something magical about seeing a good movie trailer in a theater. Emphasis on the good there: bland over-explanations of a film’s premise that often just run through all the plot beats or cover all the good gags and what have you, are just overlong adverts, and between the actual ads in a theater pre-show, there’s already enough of that going on.

But seeing an artfully done teaser—snappy, creative, mysterious, jam packed with promise and intrigue—and letting it, well, tease you in that atmosphere is an electrical feeling. I can still remember seeing that final The Force Awakens trailer in a jam-packed theater. I’d seen it dozens of time already online. Hell, I helped broke the damn thing down with enough gifs to power a fully armed and operational battlestation. I could mouth along with the dialogue, whistle away at that triumphantly brassy take on John Williams’ Force leitmotif.

It wasn’t new to me, and yet, in that environment, surrounded by people who gasped and ooh’d and aah’d at it, seeing it again was like seeing it for the first time. I’d take plenty of trailers like those over the drab, dime-a-dozen overexplainers in a pre-show any time. Cutting it down to just three at most seems like a good way to risk getting more of those general, “gotta hit all demographic” style trailers instead of the mysterious, speculation-inviting ones.

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The survey did have a few silver linings for both cinema owners and trailer lovers: apparently the displeasure for more trailers before a movie is something that increases as you get older. Although they still in general were receptive to seeing just one to three trailers in a pre-show, Generation Z and Millenials—who make up the bulk of moviegoers and are probably also the most likely people to see trailers online and on social media before they do within the confines of a theater seat—30 percent of those polled in the 18-22 and 23-38 age brackets were fine with seeing around four to six trailers as part of a pre-show, that sweet spot in the current average.

You can check out the full data from the survey here—and in the mean time, what was your favorite trailer experience in a theater recently? Let us know in the comments!

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About the author

James Whitbrook

James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!