Trailer Wars: Garfield vs. Gibson

The LA Times has a fun article about the struggle between theater chains and the studios over which trailers get shown, and with which films:

Foreman is Regal Cinemas’ czar of coming attractions. He decides which trailers will be placed before a runaway hit and which won’t run at all. In his office in Knoxville, Tenn., where a map pinpoints Regal’s 560 theaters nationwide, Foreman’s computer chimes constantly, announcing the arrival of as many as 80 e-mails a day from people who want their soon-to-be-released films promoted on his company’s 6,263 screens.

Five minutes don’t pass without a nudging phone call from an anxious studio executive in Los Angeles or New York. Some beg. Some plead. Some threaten.

“It goes with the territory,” said Foreman, who is pulling 12-hour days this pre-holiday season. His wife knows that until Thanksgiving, she probably won’t see him for dinner. “She doesn’t complain,” he said. “It’s part of the business.”

Everyone is warring not only to be in the trailer reel before the film of choice, but also to be the last trailer in said reel. As the LA Times’ piece says, “Woe to the trailer that runs first, when many people are buying their popcorn and Milk Duds.”

Given that I generally like trailers more than I like movies — call it a consequence of a short attention span — I have an obvious suggestion: Just create a trailer channel, perhaps on digital television. I might watch that, and I’d almost certainly pay more attention than I do at theatres.

Sadly, my Trailer Channel is not likely to happen. Movie executives know their target market, and it’s not me, it’s people attending the current hottest movies:

Movie marketers will tell you that the only place their ads are guaranteed to reach proven filmgoers is not on television or in newspapers but inside a darkened theater — preferably one where the weekend’s hottest movie is reaching the most pairs of eyes.

Then again, it’s more art than science figuring out the film to which your trailer should be attached. Consider this bizarre kicker at the end of the LA Times piece:

Good fit can be hard to find. When Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” premiered in February, many theater owners didn’t know whether to run trailers at all.

“They were afraid of offending,” said Bob Berney, head of New Market Films, which distributed the R-rated movie.

The unexpected solution, some theaters found, was animated fare to appeal to the film’s largely family audience. John Davis, producer of “Garfield,” the film treatment of the chubby, irreverent comic strip cat, was at first baffled to learn that Fox had pitched his trailer to run before “The Passion.” But he was thrilled by the results.

“It got fabulous exposure,” he said, noting that Gibson’s film raked in $350 million. “You never look a gift horse in the mouth.”


  1. I’ve reached the Trailers Only stage too.
    If you’re willing to wait, do a deal with your local video store and pick up their in-house promotional trailer reels they plug for new DVD releases.
    The loss of trailers on new DVDs is a crying shame. Don’t they understand the genius of it all???
    i) haven’t watched the movie, seen the trailer.
    ii) haven’t read the book, scanned the table of contents.
    iii) haven’t listened to others, encountered data streams.
    I don’t want to be entertained, I want to be informed. You supply the content, I supply the context.

  2. Hey Bill. Thanks for the comment. Love the closing quote …