Illinois Poltician Sues To Force Theaters To Stop Ads

posted by kimel0001 on March 7, 2005 at 6:12 am

CHICAGO, IL — Miriam Fisch, an Illinois politician who apparently is so fed up with the large number of advertisements that play before the start of movies these days, she has filed a lawsuit against Loews Cineplex to stop them.

According to, which has published the complete complaint, Fisch seeks the following relief:

(d) Enjoining Loews and the defendant Loews class from showing advertisements prior to feature films, and/or an Order forcing Loews and the defendant Loews class to accurately inform customers of the real starting times of movies post-advertisements;

Is this a sign of a new breed of lawsuits to be filed against theater chains in the US and abroad?

Comments (30)

klimkm on March 7, 2005 at 8:22 am

I hate those ads. Especially when the commercials are inappropriately marketed to the audience at a particular movie. I went to a G-rated movie with my kids. One of the ads we were forced to sit through was a sexy perfume ad. With the high prices they charge for their admissions, and the really high prices they charge for their food, the ads are just the last straw…

Previews OK – commercials NOT… and on top of that the movies do not start at the listed time, they trick you into being there for those commercials.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 7, 2005 at 9:00 am

And just to show that this isn’t a new problem, check out this 1983 letter found on the web site. An attorney complains that the Academy Twin Cinemas in Newton MA showed a commercial for KOOL cigarettes before a 1:50 pm Saturday matinee of the the G-rated movie Snow White.

He was also unhappy that the theatre preceded this Disney film with a trailer for the James Bond film Octopussy, which he felt was totally inappropriate for children under 6.

Patrick Crowley
Patrick Crowley on March 7, 2005 at 11:02 am

Today’s Cinema Treasure poll takes on the issue of movie theater ads. Tell us what you think!

POLL: How many minutes of ads will you watch before a movie starts?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 7, 2005 at 11:10 am

You should have numbers less than 5 minutes in the poll. For instance, at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, I’m willing to put up with a single Turner Classic Movies ad that they run before their features — but that’s only 1 minute or so.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 7, 2005 at 11:37 am

I’m interpreting the question as “not including previews”. The polltaker may want to clarify.

superdude480 on March 7, 2005 at 12:39 pm

I really dont like the ads either but since i am an assistant manager i understand because what the public does not understand is with a first run theater 70% to 90% of the box office sales go back to the film companys a first run theater must rely on sales from their concession stand to turn a profit and with those people out there who sneak in outside food into the theaters instead of buying from the concession stand hows a theater to make a profit? I can tell you a first run theater does not make a profit from their box office sales its imposible due to rental agreements with films companys and their requirment to take such a high percentage from the box office so in order to make make money fees that are collected are considerable for ads to be placed on screen and to top that eventually all theaters will have to convert to digial projection as with what happened with beta tapes film prints will be discontinued from production and features therfore will be shot digitalaly and theater projection booths will have to equipted with dlp cinema in order to download their features and that equipment is not cheap if theatres dont do it once the new format is online then they wont be able to show features. Everyone should consider this and understand it. Now i do Agree Chain could do a better job starting features on time as posted in ads ect. but if they have to go to court then the lawyer fees ect. have to be passed on in the form of higher concession prices cause if they din’t the they lose profits and are forced to close.

Ziggy on March 7, 2005 at 12:56 pm

That’s nice Barry Lee, but I find it very offensive that I have to pay seven or more dollars to watch 20 or more minutes of commercials. It’s stuff like this that keeps me away from the movies entirely.

Michael Zoldessy
Michael Zoldessy on March 7, 2005 at 1:12 pm

I was actually thinking about this the other night as I went to the Mann Village in Westwood for a 10PM Saturday night screening. There were at most 20 people there. I was shocked and a bit worried. I mean yeah, “The Jacket” seemed to be a box office dud but at 10PM on a Saturday night in Westwood one would feel it could scare up a little more audience than this. Anyway, what worried me even more is that there were a good 10 people working there, amongst concessions, ticket takers, box office, etc. Yeah, needless to say, I was kind of relieved when the ads came on cause at least I knew the theater was making some money! If it takes ads to keep this theater open, show as many as necessary.

Then again it is kind of a relief to go to ArcLight Hollywood and not deal with them. However, for those not familiar with ArcLight, you must understand that you pay a premium for this luxury(admission is $10-$11 weekdays and weekends during the day, and $14(yes that’s right) $14 on Friday and Saturday night.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, no it’s not ideal to have the ads but from what I understand about the theater business, sometimes you have no choice.

JMonsport on March 7, 2005 at 8:05 pm

Boy, oh boy. If you asked 100 people if they like rolling-stock ads and you asked the same 100 people if they liked living near nuclear waste dumps, I think the result would be the same. So, given the fact that this is a very easy issue for politicians to get behind in an election year, a few fire-brand wielding, political hereos have come forth to save us Americans from American Express, General Motors and Kraft Foods.

In New York at both the state and NYC local level, more political saviors have risen to help the cause of us poor moviegoers who have nothing better to do than sit in a movie theatre and karp about preview ads.

I wonder, what legal issues these do-gooder/time-wasters will confront? The New York legislation is attempting to dictate what time the actual feature is advertised. In theory, if the feature is advertised at 8:00pm and the feature doesn’t go on until 8:25 well, a complaintant can call some government agency which will in theory, find the theatre guilty and subject the theatre to a $1000 fine for each offense. OK, but whose watch is official? What if they advertised 8:00 and the projectionist had a stroke on the job. Now the feature starts 1 hour late. Ok, you’ll make a provision for that but you can’t single out screen advertising as the cause for action, after all, there might be free speech issues. (What politician every gave a hoot about that? This anti-ad thing delivers votes!)
What if the newspaper prints the wrong time, who do you think would own up to that? Will the government have to set up a multi-billion dollar watchdog agency that movie theatres would report to and submit show times for? Will it be peopled with snooty ex-film students who just want to take it out on those big commercial movie chains?

I don’t know the answers. All I know is I want grocery stores to stop putting those Hot Wheels near the check-out. I went in for just a gallon of milk the other day. I had to take my kids in with me because you can’t leave ‘em in the car alone anymore. All I wanted to do was pay and get out when all hell breaks loose because I agree to buy only one car for each child. They, of course, wanted the whole peg-board…I nearly lost my mind… OK, so I did lose my mind, but where’s the public outcry? I need to trample on somebody’s rights to get my way! Quick get me Miriam Fisch! She’ll surely help me!

sdoerr on March 7, 2005 at 8:11 pm

I agree with many that previews are fine but commercials shouldn’t be shown. They are unrelated to the movie and the movie experience.

IanJudge on March 7, 2005 at 9:18 pm

As I have posted on the poll regarding this topic,

My theater just started showing these ads in January. We held out as long as we could, but they are an easy form of revenue and we lost money last year, so they make a difference in keeping my 91 year old moviehouse open. I absolutely hate them, to be sure, but they are helpful, and most audiences are (sadly) accustomed to them. I have yet to field a complaint, and I was bracing myself for an onslaught.

We make a genuine effort to start them earlier than the showtime so people aren’t forced to watch a longer show.

I also point out to folks that our ticket prices are 40% cheaper than other area theaters and the ads help keep them substantially lower.

One way the theaters could prevent such a lawsuit (which I personally think is frivolous) is to simply put a line in their advertising listings that says something to the effect of “Showtimes indicate start of program, including ads, previews, and other content”. That would, at least, be truth in advertising.

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on March 8, 2005 at 5:34 am

Theaters are in bsns to make money. ………………………..

jon6444 on March 8, 2005 at 11:01 am

We don’t have a problem seeing the ads….we never seem to be able to get inside the theater before the lights are dim…..I do agree with others…we are bombarded with advertisements all the time, if I am dropping $60 to $70 for a movie and day old popcorn, I sure as hell do not want to sit through advertisements….Now that said, I do not mind the slide shows before the movie that features movie trivia and advertisements for say local little league baseball or a local school fundraisers. What do you think??

ryanwriter on March 8, 2005 at 4:27 pm

I think people wouldn’t be as upset about the ads if the money that was made from them helped lower the cost of going to the movies. Ticket prices already limit how much I go to the theater. I usually these days just wait to see all the movies on cable.

Michael R. Rambo Jr.
Michael R. Rambo Jr. on March 8, 2005 at 9:43 pm

The promblem with these lawsuits is the theatre chains and advertisers lawyers will argue why there should be ads. The big chains like JP Morgan’s AMC Theatres/National Cinema Network, Regal Entertainment Group/Regal CineNet and others will, if they lose, appeal and appeal the appeals if they lose the appeals.

superdude480 on March 8, 2005 at 10:39 pm

Just to clarify as far as the ticket prices are concerned they really dont have a say in ticket pricing because you see in the big markets the studios dictate the prices if we dont agree to charge a set price per terms of rental agreement inwhich lets say universal wants 7.25 per ticket charged and instead we were to charge 6.50 then the next time universal would not give us a print instead give it to another theater willing to charge what they want.
What Alot of people who are not in the business dont understand is that the theaters are a tight rope when it comes to getting studio prints and really this applys to major market and if the chains dint follow what the studios dictate then they dont get the prints no prints no theater and no place for customers to go to see movies. If there is to be change with ads being ran before features there must be less restrictions on the theater chains in relation to rental agreements and therefore that would allow theaters to lower ticket prices and concession prices by not having to rely on ads a good source of revenue.

jon6444 on March 9, 2005 at 6:20 am

One thing to keep in mind, this Miriam Fisch from Illinois IS a politician…..I find it hard to believe she all of a sudden has developed a crusade against movie theater advertisement….She is looking for publicity and nothing else…..whenever her hidden agenda is accomplished, you will not hear another thing about this…..If she had any true conviction, maybe she should look at the oppressive booking practices of the studios….kind of reminds you of block bookings from yester years…..remember…how do you tell if a politician is telling a lie…there lips are moving.

JMonsport on March 9, 2005 at 8:00 am

With or without ads, my theatre will be profitable. The issue to me is simple. Should we care about our customers likes or dislikes. I believe the answer is yes, to a point. Studies have shown that with such bombardment the retention of any of that stuff, and most importantly, the coming attractions, is limited to the last 3 trailers on screen. That’s why I don’t play the ads, I want to help MY business, not sell some underarm deodorant.

Years ago, I was a part of of some meetings whereby some studio/distribution folks outright said to the major chains, “we create the market and since we spend all that dough, we want a piece of all exhibitor revenues (yes, including concessions). Well, the answer was "take a hike Jack!” and they did.
Soon thereafter, Disney called a news conference and stated that because pubic outcry was such, they were banning rolling-stock advertising from playing with their features. Warner Bros. soon followed. It is actually a part of many licensing agreements that you can’t play the ads, though admittedly only Warner and Disney enforce them.
So, I wouldn’t be surprised that the heavy hand of distribution will end up policing this issue for all the do-gooders politicians. It’s hard when you’re a major chain and the bauble of all those cool lobby flat screens and the digital players are dangled in fromt of you. Imagine the countless millions that would be spent on that stuff otherwise.

klimkm on March 9, 2005 at 11:49 am

The point is that the movie is advertised to begin at 8:00. It does not – the ADS begin at 8:00. So that is a deceptive business practice. End of story. The theatres should publish the exact start time of the movie…

IanJudge on March 9, 2005 at 1:10 pm

Again, as long as the ad said something to the effect of “showtimes include full program of ads, previews and other content” that would be fair.

It is impossible to advertise the exact showtime the actual feature begins – what if one set of three previews is 6 mins long and a different set is 7 mins? And then what if the projectionist goofs up and starts the movie 5 mins late, do the customers get to sue? Are they entitled to a refund if the show starts 1 minute late. And by whose watch? It seems extreme. Another thing is that most audiences are accustomed to at least a couple of minutes of previews (many actually enjoy a couple) and so give themselves a little time to arrive, get comfortable, visit restrooms/concession, etc. When I have run films with no previews (it has happened occassionally when no good ones are available, or the film is exceedingly long) people get pissed off that the movie started right away when they are used to previews.

In fact, since my theater only shows 2 to 3 previews, people STILL miss the movie because the other chain theaters have acclimated them to 12-15 minutes of ads, previews, etc., so they arrive late.

You just can’t please everyone!

br91975 on March 9, 2005 at 1:35 pm

Below is the comment I posted last night on this week’s quiz page…

I’m not a fan of commercials being shown before movies (trailers, yes- even though most tend to give away the majority of a film’s plot in only a few minutes' time; commercials themselves, no) but, reading Ian M. Judge’s comments, I recognize them as being a necessary evil; again, I’m not fond of them, but I understand why theatres – chains and indies – resort to showing them.

Pacific Theatres, the operator of the ArcLight and Cinerama Dome complex, does a fantastic thing in not showing commercials; the trade-off, of course, being an increase in ticket price. While most of us claim that to be a fair bargain, the fact is, a sizeable percentage would complain about the increase in the cost of admission, despite filmgoing being the best entertainment bargain around.

The fair compromise to me (again, going back to the policy of the theatre where Ian is employed, which I believe to be the Somerville Theatre, my boyhood moviegoing haunt and the place where I had my first job at the age of 10, distributing film program calendars in the Somerville and Cambridge area during the mid-‘80s) is to show commercials before the announced showtime; theatre owners still gain their revenue and those of us who prefer to avoid ads win as well.
posted by br91975 on Mar 08, 05 | 10:35 pm

IanJudge on March 9, 2005 at 2:30 pm

Manwithnoname: I cannot comment on the specific terms of our contract (I don’t want this friendly discussion to turn into a messy contract thing), but as for denying people entry once the feature begins, that would create more enemies than friends.

br91975: I didn’t realize you used to go to the Somerville so much (and I am assuming you worked for Garen Daly back then? What great programming the place had back in the day! Double features, festivals, great stuff) next time you are in the area stop in and say hi! I went there for movies as a kid whenever I could, and have a lot of fun running the place now.

JMonsport on March 9, 2005 at 6:27 pm

When everyone and their mother knows that lots of ads precede the feature attraction at a movie theatre, it becomes a hard sell to say someone is “deceived” when the movie starts 15 minutes after the advertised showtime.

In fact, the industry has operated in this manner since the grand days of the palacial theatre. The theatre advertised the showtime, but everyone knew that showtime included a few newsreels, maybe a cartoon, sometimes a sing-a-long, a contest, the “B” feature, the coming attractions that trailed the “B” feature (trailers), maybe a serial like “Buck Rogers”, and then…the feature. What if people were interminable grousers back then like they are today?

The fact is Americans generally hate advertising, whether its “free” on TV or a part of a feature showtime at the movies.

IanJudge on March 10, 2005 at 9:52 am

Thanks Manwithnoname! And having attended movies in larger markets, I totally understand your frustration with loud latecomers. Theaters should have ‘cell phone check rooms’ like they used to have coat check rooms.

br91975 on March 11, 2005 at 7:06 am

Those were great days for the Somerville Theatre, Ian – working for Garen, the double features, the midnight specials on Friday and Saturday nights, the programming in general, and the anticipation that surrounded the experience of that first look at each new film calendar as it arrived at the theatre, checking to see what the next two months would bring… fun times and I’m glad the Somerville Theatre is still going strong. I’ll definitely pop in and say ‘hi’ the next time I’m back in Boston.

zoetmb on April 3, 2005 at 5:03 pm

Every theatre that I attend posts the time that the trailers start, not the time that the ads start. Maybe this isn’t true everywhere. I hate the ads also, but poster Barry Lee has it right: in the opening weeks of a film, the theatre gets only 10-20% of the take. Movie theaters are concession stands that show movies, not movies that happen to have concession stands. That’s why the junk food they sell costs so much.

If we fight to eliminate the ads, we’ll probably win, but four things will happen as a result:
1. Many more theaters will close, especially those in large cities and expensive suburbs where land values are high.
2. Ticket prices will rise.
3. Theaters will be even more reluctant to invest in better facilities, projection, sound, etc.
4. Incompetent popcorn kids will be running the projectors instead of trained projectionists (this is happening already.)

So my vote is to live with the ads. In the theaters I attend, the house lights are up during the ads and you can talk to your friends during the ads. This really isn’t a big deal. The fact that a lawsuit was actually brought against this goes to prove that Americans are the most stupidly litigious people on the fact of the planet. Get a life.

superdude480 on April 11, 2005 at 11:52 pm

Thanks Marty B. And to make another point if the studios have their way in the future everyone will be paying even higher prices at both the boxoffice and conncession stand because of DLP Projectors(for those who dont know what dlp is its digital laser projection). As a result prints will be phased out like bata tapes and players. And for the small operators this means very expensive dlp projectors to be installed and wireless dishes on the roof inorder to download movies instead of recieving prints by shipping companies. Dlp projectors will cost twice as much as conventional projectors.

Willo on March 8, 2006 at 5:08 pm

Not only ads but TV commercials!!! If I was inclined to watch TV, why would I be sitting in a theater? I don’t want to see TV programs advertized while I’m at the movie. This doesn’t make sense to me. The sound is nice in the theater, but with the new home sound systems, why pay so much to sit there and watch ads. As one other said; previews fine, but not ads and definitely not TV program ads. Wake up theater owners!!

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on March 23, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Geez, I really don’t care.I wish it was 1974 AGAIN.

TLSLOEWS on March 30, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Funny thing people watch commercials all the time on T.V..Remember when cable came out it was great because there were no Ads.How long did that last?

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