Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - Preshow_1
Pro SEPTEMBER 2015
n For as long as most of us can remember, the pre-show before the
main feature has not significantly changed. Audiences have come to
expect to see a number of advertisements and trailers before the film
This article takes a look into the pre-show and its possibilities
given new technologies and solutions now available on the market. It
also asks whether the current format, its content lasting 15 to 25-plus
minutes, achieves all it can for your business.
To begin with we will examine what we want to get from running
the pre-show in the first place, and then see what, if anything, can be
improved to achieve the goals we set out for it.
In many countries audience numbers for the pre-show are lower
than those for the main feature. This will vary by country, film, day,
time, and venue. Published start times often include the pre-show.
Cinema-goers have come to know that they have time to get
to their seats and not miss the film. Some intentionally arrive late
to avoid the pre-show; others use the time to get their tickets and
purchase drinks and snacks.
The growing availability of pre-allocated or reserved seats means
that customers can arrive as late as they want before the main movie
and be guaranteed the seat they’ve chosen. So, while reserved seating
improves service on the one hand, it impacts something else on the
other, in this case attendance of the pre-show.
The time between the start of the pre-show and the main movie
also helps the cinema deal with customer flow, queues, etc. In some
respects, therefore, cinemas are quite happy for audiences to “trickle”
into an auditorium over the course of the pre-show.
There is generally quite a lot of movement of people in an audi-
torium in this period as everyone gets settled for the main feature.
Lighting at this time is also kept up before being lowered or switched
off for the movie.
Questions arising include, would it be better for advertisers, the
studios, and cinemas to have the pre-show better populated by cus-
tomers from the very start of the program? If so, what impact would
this have on revenue, attendance, and audience enjoyment?
If we were more successful at getting everyone seated earlier, cus-
tomers would have to turn up earlier than currently the case and be
served with food and drink well beforehand. How would this impact
on cinema operations if at all?
Audiences love watching trailers before the film.
Trailers are a critical marketing tool for our business as they inform
and sell upcoming movies, which promotes cinema attendance and
frequency—our core business. Generally trailers are played near the
main feature (often after a series of adverts) in order to capture as
many eyeballs as possible. For this reason slots near the start of the
film are prime real estate for trailers and adverts, always
requested, sometimes charged for, and often carrying a
A common challenge and discussion point for
trailers is their length, often one-and-a-half to two-
plus minutes. This can limit the total number cinemas
can play within a pre-show of predefined maximum
length. The solution is shorter trailers of 60 seconds,
which for some countries are commonplace and pro-
vided as standard by distributors.
Bigger movies drive requests from studios and
distributors for more trailers to be played beforehand,
simply because of the size of the audiences present. In
turn this puts pressure on the length of the pre-show,
which is sometimes extended with blockbuster releas-
es. It is worth noting that the top 20 to 30 films can
account for 65 to 80 percent of the total attendance in
a year, so pressure on the pre-show is understandable.
Then there is the decision of which trailers to play with which
films. This is often a negotiating point between studios and exhibitors
and is, on occasion, part of the terms that are attached to playing a
movie or other special offerings such as premieres and promotions.
Generally cinemas do their best to pick “like” movie trailers to
play with the main feature, but it is probably fair to say that this can
be hit-and-miss at times, depending on who makes the decision and
whether the cinema concerned actually complies with the recom-
mended “play list” from the head office.
In some markets distributors pay exhibitors to place a trailer just
before the main feature, which could open up a discussion as to
whether exhibitors should or could charge for the screen time that
trailers (some or all) take up, similar to advertising but perhaps at a
lower or special rate. This can be seen, understandably, as an issue for
studios and distributors given that the “partnership” with exhibitors
should mean a mutually beneficial relationship in which the content
is provided free by the filmmakers, and the cinemas market that con-
tent in the form of trailers. Interestingly it is common practice now
for distributors to pay to advertise on cinema websites.
Suffice it to say that there are a lot of dynamics at play when it
comes to trailers and the pre-show, some of which are not all aligned
in terms of their objectives.
Revolution or Evolution?
Part 1 of 2
by Mark de Quervain
Managing Director, Action Marketing Works Ltd.
(continued on page 36)
Patrons worldwide cheered—and many cried—when
Chewie and Han made an appearance in the latest
Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer.
Pro SEPTEMBER 2015
The other key element to the pre-show is of course advertising.
This is often sold by companies that specialize in this area, some of
whom are commercially separate from the cinema companies they
work for and some of whom are owned by cinema chains in various
ways. Irrespective of who sells the space, the income generated is
significant for cinemas and often a critical part of their overall profit-
ability and business model.
Advertisers associate their brands with relevant movies and buy
packages that link relevance with demographics and volume (eye-
balls). The rates they pay on a CPT (cost per thousand) basis vary
and are often negotiable.
There is strong evidence from various sources that cinema adver-
tising is a highly effective medium that delivers targeted and effective
engagement and action more than other media channels such as TV,
print, and radio, and for this reason it is often charged at a premium
versus these others. Yet there is constant pressure to maintain and
grow the premium rates cinema advertising demands, and refreshing
the pre-show could be an effective way to achieve this.
As with trailers, the demand for space in the pre-show increases
the bigger the movie, so again the top 20 to 30 movies tend to be un-
der pressure to show more adverts than the smaller titles. The result
often leads to longer pre-shows for blockbusters, which means that
the majority of cinema audiences can experience lengthy extended
pre-shows of adverts and trailers as more content is squeezed in.
At some point there can be a debate at cinemas between trading
off between playing a trailer versus an advertisement. The decision
can be driven simply by the immediate revenue available.
In addition to trailers and adverts, cinemas often like to run a
brand or policy trailer for themselves, whether it’s an offer, experi-
ence, or special event.
These trailers can be company-wide or specific to that particular
screen or cinema, whether it be a large-screen format (PLF) or some-
thing else. Technology partners also can be included to promote the
projection system such as 4K or laser, sound system such as Dolby
ATMOS or 3D, and HFR, etc.
These trailers are generally played at or near the very best part of
the pre-show, and sometimes just after it officially ends and prior to the
main feature starting. For this reason studios produce film-branded and
themed “policy trailers” for cinemas that include the cinema company’s
name, etc. Themes can include “Switch off your mobile phone” to
“Put on your 3D glasses.” The net benefit is that the studio gets its film
trailered in a super-premium slot at no cost. The cinema company gets
something branded and fun for an otherwise unexciting message.
Finally, there may be a need to communicate an industry promo-
tion or antipiracy trailer.
TECHNOLOGY: A GAME CHANGER FOR THE PRE-SHOW
With most cinemas now running digital projectors combined
with modern content delivery and scheduling systems, we have the
opportunity to capitalize on what this now offers. Gone are the days
of creating 35 mm prints for adverts and trailers, which were costly
Advertising can be easily shipped, tailored, and adapted. It is
cheaper to produce and higher quality than ever before. This all
helps open up cinema advertising to new brands and more tactical
campaigns. Adverts look better than they have for a long time on the
Another benefit is that local advertising is growing rapidly as tech-
nology enables a quality, affordable message to be produced for local
businesses. This increases the number of companies a sales house
has to deal with and makes handling and scheduling the advertising
content in the pre-show more complex. Local advertising is said to
be growing at 10 to 20 percent or more, faster than nationally based
Technology in cinema now also allows for better compliance and
improved targeting as well.
So technology enables us to do more than before in the tradition-
al sense, but it also opens the door for customers to interact directly
with content we show on the big screen. This is certainly one of the
key drivers of innovations that we are seeing in the pre-show space
from companies such as TimePlay, AE (Audience Entertainment),
Cinime, and HTS (Highland Technologies Solutions) among others.
It is worth pointing out that innovation in the pre-show has been
tested in the past from AE and TimePlay, but developments in tech-
nology allow major changes to take place.
SUMMARY SO FAR
There is no doubt that the pre-show as it stands is a complex
animal that requires constant planning and negotiation involving
many parts of a cinema’s team, their partners, and suppliers on a very
Having spoken to many people from different parts of the busi-
ness associated with the pre-show for this piece, I can say there are
certainly management stresses and strains associated with it; more
often than not it is seen as a significant revenue generator for the
exhibitor, with different people wanting different things at different
times, all of which cannot all be satisfied all the time, particularly
around blockbusters and major film releases.
Technology in cinemas now offers us more opportunities that en-
able us, should we wish, to optimize, enhance, and even completely
change the pre-show and how it is seen and engaged with.
More brands are using cinema, due in part to lower entry hurdles,
improved targeting, and the overall effectiveness of cinema advertis-
ing verses other media.
BUT WHAT OF THE CUSTOMER?
The current status quo certainly works—up to a point.
There does not seem to be any sign of a significant customer
revolt based on the way things are done at the moment; complaints
tend to come in when the existing pre-show is extended in length for
more ads and trailers, which people seem to find irritating.
Beyond this, cinema-goers generally accept the situation, with
those most averse opting simply to turn up later at the cinema or to
wait longer in the foyer—they vote with their feet.
Perhaps a key challenge with changing the pre-show will be edu-
cating cinema-goers, given that current levels of understanding are so
ingrained following years of conditioning with a pretty static format.
Simply changing a pre-show may therefore not be enough. It will
need to be marketed and promoted over an extended period.
BUT COULD IT WORK BETTER, AND IF SO HOW?
In next month’s installment, I’ll outline ways to drive change
and improvements in today’s pre-show experience, including
changes in format and content. We’ll also see how certain European
companies have already begun implementing exciting new technol-
ogies that enhance the pre-show and affect how audiences interact
and engage. n