Last summer, the National Association of Theater Owners responded to the increasingly loud protest over the lengths of movie trailers, vowing to do something about the one grievance it might possibly be able to redress. (Especially as it remains powerless against runner-up grievances, like “That movie was boring” and “Someone shot me.”) Now it’s taken the first, gentle step in that direction by releasing voluntary guidelines asking that studios limit their trailers’ lengths to no more than two minutes—30 seconds shorter than the current norm.
This would then ostensibly limit the amount of time theater managers have to spend enduring “the brunt of complaints from the public” about it, freeing them to instead turn their attention to, say, Kevin’s constantly untucked shirt. (Do you own an iron, Kevin? And do you know how to use it?) Of course, it would also limit trailers’ ability to give away their movies’ plot, leaving audiences uncertain whether the main character might end up being lucky in love, despite all comical appearances to the contrary—because they just couldn’t stand it if they weren’t.
Instead, they'll get a mere two minutes to get to know the main characters, the primary antagonist, the supporting characters, the tertiary characters, the one person who maybe isn't technically a "character" but provides a standout moment of comic relief, the basic conflict that drives the film, the plot twist that complicates that conflict, the beginning of the resolution to that conflict, the hint of that conflict's denouement, the three or four biggest action scenes or set pieces, and all of the most quotable lines of dialogue.
Still, this NATO, for one, is willing to take the risk of upsetting some people. It’s also asked that studios limit trailers and in-theater marketing displays to no more than five months before a movie’s release, suggesting we may now only see ads for movies that are more or less “finished.” However, NATO is also willing to grant studios two exceptions per year on both trailer length and marketing lead time, to be reserved only for their most special blockbusters that they weren’t already going to ignore these guidelines on anyway. Because, again—despite some studios’ fears that exhibitors may use these suggested rules to refuse to play longer trailers, or use the time limits to cram in more trailers they then get paid for—adopting them remains totally voluntary.
This meek, polite cough in the direction of the cigar-smoking, brazenly texting, openly masturbating movie studios in their theaters further includes a request that trailers not feature any third-party brands—instantly disqualifying all of Adam Sandler’s films—or any Internet URLs that might “encourage mobile phone use during the show,” presumably besides what’s already occurring. And, perhaps well aware that these guidelines aren’t likely to accomplish much, they enact perhaps their harshest restrictions (as Deadline points out), on distributor-hired auditors, demanding that they “be professional in dress and demeanor,” not “take up a seat” or “interact with guests,” and generally be beholden to the one area in which theater managers actually exert some semblance of control. Still, for audiences tired of being distracted from their 30 minutes of trailers by some chatty, sloppily dressed auditor, real change is coming.