Theater Chain To Issue Ads Warning

If you're a moviegoer who hates sitting through the Fandango sack puppets, commercials, coming attractions and Inconsiderate Cell Phone Man, here's some really good news.

Loews Cineplex Entertainment will begin advertising movie showtimes with a note saying most movies actually start 10 to 15 minutes later because of all those commercials, public service announcements and previews.

The note will start appearing in newspaper and Internet listings for the theater chain beginning next month, said John McCauley, Loews' senior vice president for marketing. Loews owns 200 theaters nationwide.

The change was a response to complaints from moviegoers, he said.

Yet, McCauley said he thinks few people will arrive later because of the notice.

"We still think people enjoy coming early, getting their popcorn, finding their seats, talking amongst one another," he said. He's backed by a poll that suggests that a majority of moviegoers don't mind the ads.

Not according to moviegoers interviewed earlier this year by CBS News.

"I rush to the theater to get a good seat and then I have to watch the ads," one patron complained to Early Show contributor Laurie Hibberd.

"I didn't pay money to sit and watch commercials," another griped.

"We hate it; we want it to stop!" exclaimed yet another.

The cinema ads and previews bothered one Connecticut state representative so much, he decided to do something about it.

Andrew Fleishman said he "put in a bill that would simply require movie theaters to tell the truth — that when they're advertising or creating a listing, that they let us know not just when the previews and ads start, but also when the feature film begins."

But, notes Hibberd, that might defeat the purpose, which is to get the audience to watch the commercials.

It's big business for theater owners, almost $400 million a year, and, according to the Cinema Advertising Council, the ads can help keep ticket and popcorn prices down.

"It's not that long ago that we had exhibitors in Chapter 11," points out council president Matthew Kearney, "and it's obviously in everyone's best interest to see the movie industry healthy and having a healthy exhibitor industry is obviously a key part of it."

But Fleishman said he feels ripped off: "It's not fair to us. We've turned into a captive audience. We're not given a choice to skip those commercials if we want to."

Nonsense, responds Kearney: "Captive implies that they are chained or manacled to their seats, which of course is not the case. People can arrive slightly later if they want to miss the ads."

But not if they want to get a good seat, said Hibberd.

"Well, if you want to get a good seat, that's one of the big things about the movies," Kearney said. "And most people, if you ask them the question. 'What would you rather have — a blank screen or something up on the screen' — they say well, 'We'd rather have something up on the screen.'"

Advertisers are spending big money to give added value to the commercials.

"Advertisers get it," Kearney observes. "They know that, if their ad is on a 40-foot screen, they want to make it entertaining; they want to make it high quality, because they want to get their brand associated with good things."