How long is too long?

Ever sat in a cinema watching the pre-show movie trailers and been confused about which movie you are seeing because the trailer has been going for 5 minutes? Yes, movie trailers are getting longer and longer every year and NATO is onto it!


Unfortunately it isn’t the American military organisation with the acronym NATO (but wouldn’t that make a great story if the American military was concerned with our movie trailers). This NATO is the National Association of Theatre Owners.

The role of NATO is to keep movie theatres competitive by suggesting best practice marketing guidelines that will maximise the industry’s future potential. And the length of film trailers has been highlighted as the next big ticket issue in keeping cinemas competitive.

As the trailers get longer there is concern that viewing the movie now becomes obsolete. Especially as more recent trailers tend to cram as much of the movie as possible into three or so minutes without giving away the final few scenes.

While NATO is suggesting that movie trailers remain under two minutes long, there is certainly a reason why these trailers are getting longer and longer . . . Risk!

There is great risk in going to a cinema to see a movie. Will I get my $20 worth of entertainment? Will I be better off if I just download the film at home? Do I wait two months until the DVD comes out and I can rent it from my local Blockbuster for $2?

So what better way to reduce this risk than to provide more information for the consumers in a longer trailer?

It is easy to see both points of view. Too much in the trailer and there is no reason to come back to see the whole movie. Too little and consumers aren’t willing to gamble $20 on their enjoyment of the movie.

But while we may not have a definitive solution, it raises an important question. How much information is too much? It is certainly a difficult question to answer because the answer is very personal.

Everybody has a different threshold for risk. Some people prefer to engage in an activity that could surprise them whereas others like to know exactly what is going to happen. But where is the threshold that inspires people’s curiosity, makes them purchase a ticket and yet doesn’t give too much information to ruin the experience?