Commercials in theaters

posted by Jim Vecchio on September 14, 2006 at 7:31 am

This week I saw “Hollywoodland” at my closest local cinema, the Trumbull Crown Marquis. I thought I had the system bucked; I saw when the movie was slated to start, so I arrived shortly afterward, dawdled at the concession, and walked into the shoebox…er…showplace, hoping to avoid the commercials. Was I ever stymied!

Though the commercials had long since begun, there was no hint at an end of a steady stream, that involved not only the usuals, but commercials of several TV shows, and even a commercial for feminine hygiene spray! Of course, these were followed by several previews of coming attractions. Mercifully, the movie did begin sometime that evening, but I was ready to shout “I’m mad as (expletive deleted) and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Judging by your followers' responses, to last week’s poll, many of the CT regulars also are fed up with the annoying and ever-growing intrusions of these commercials into an arena that cannot possibly charge much more and expect any kind of a decent patronage. I feel that this experience, coupled with your followers' comments last week, might warrant a new section on your excellent site: You already list theaters by location, local and worldwide, whether they are open, closed, or demolished. How about featuring a state-by-state list of all theaters that are known TO AVOID COMMERCIALS.

I’m sure this would be of benefit and great interest to all CT followers. In event you accept this suggestion, I will note a few from the Connecticut area: Pleansant Valley Drive-In, Barkhamstead, CT, does not show anything more than perhaps an occasional trailer; Cinestudio in Hartford is a very dignified showplace and does not, to my knowlege, have commercials. I have not seen any commercials during my visits to the Garden Cinema in Norwalk. I’m sure that there are more, but that’s enough to start you off with! And we CT followers should contact the management and thank them for not allowing these intrusions into what should be a time for entertainment.

Comments (27)

ArchStanton007 on September 14, 2006 at 7:45 am

Great posting and I too am fed up with commercials in theaters and am irritated with some theater chains lies about customers not objecting to them. BULL !!!!!
Email a letter to the editor at Boxoffice magazine which I subscribe to. Hopefully, non subscribers can submit letters and why not? We are the ones buying the tickets.

hotwaterbottle on September 14, 2006 at 9:40 am

Amen to that, bro! I mentioned this very thing in another post. I recently saw Hollywoodland at the AMC Ridgefield Park 12 and the pre-show was wall to wall digital commercials. Even when the “host” of the frigging thing said “thanks for your patronage and here is your feature presentation”, you think the trailers would roll next? NO! Heres another 5 minutes of boring commercials you have to sit through!! Grrrrrr!!! I don’t mind the 5 or 6 preview trailers; they can be the best part of the show. But the rest is just mind-numbing, boring c r a p!! And the lemmings in the theatre did'nt say one word about it! Not even a peep!! I’m glad that I’m not alone in feeling anger about this.
God bless the Lafayette Theatre, Suffern, NY. No commercials. Ever!!

JoshCaudle on September 14, 2006 at 12:52 pm

No Commercials simple…
Don’t ever go to an AMC, REGAL, LOEWS OR CINEMARK THEATRE…ever!

AVOID Syufy/Century/CineArts Theatres, …they say they dont have “commercials”, but they have five minute “spots” about buying their tickets online from their website, which is a commercial!

And when in Northern California, visit the Chabot Cinema, The Delta Cinema, The Grand Lake Cinema, and the Orinda Theatre for FIRST run films and NO COMMERCIALS (other than previews of Coming Attractions)

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on September 14, 2006 at 4:17 pm

i hate ads ..but they are here to stay……no ads and all the Cinema TREASURE fans in the world wont save the theater bsns from its final curtain…

joemasher on September 14, 2006 at 6:45 pm

If you’re in Connecticut you should come to the Criterion in New Haven—-we NEVER show commercials! We show the obligatory “EXIT” trailer, three or four “COMING SOON” trailers, then our Policy Trailer. That’s it!

stevenj on September 14, 2006 at 7:52 pm

I hardly ever go to theatres anymore that show commercials. That pretty much means I see a lot of films at home on dvd. I’m one of the defectees that couldn’t stand the rude audiences, the cell phones andplunking down nearly $10 to get in. Instead,I patronize the theatres that don’t have commercials. Don’t believe I’ve ever seen a commercial at any of the Landmark Theatres, the Grand Lake in Oakland or the Castro in SF. The Kabuki has just been sold to Sundance, possibly another 8 commercial free screens. I don’t own a car so bought a good audio/video system but it’s not the same as sitting in a theatre with an audience. The commercials killed it for me.

JSA on September 14, 2006 at 8:27 pm

If theatres are going to show commercials, they should provide patrons the main feature’s actual start time.


Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on September 14, 2006 at 8:48 pm

I love some of the ..“theater fans”..THAT ALWAYS COMPLAIN ABOUT TICKET PRICES….$8.00 to $10.oo a ticket is a bargin…Save the theaters …we want great movie theaters ..BUT WE DONT WANT TO PAY…

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on September 14, 2006 at 8:55 pm

Think of ticket prices without screen ads………

tim on September 14, 2006 at 11:07 pm

The CATLOW in Barrington, IL never shows commercials and we’re proud of that fact. The funny thing is that many of our first-time customers still show up late by 10 minutes or more because they are programmed to do so to avoid the multiplexes advertising barrage.

If you are against seeing all those ads onscreen, support the classic theaters in your area that don’t show ads.

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on September 15, 2006 at 12:09 am

Mom and pop theaters can in many cases avoid the ads do to the lower cost of… no mgr ast mgr salery ,and or health ins.
I know some small theaters its the ads that keep them afloat each month… each case is different.I hate the ads but am willing to put up with them to keep theaters in the black..

JoshCaudle on September 15, 2006 at 12:20 am

Long Island Movies…

I don’t know if you are a theatre owner/operator, but you know as well as I do that theatres that are well in the black have no need to place commercials, they simply do it for a little more greed. (With private shows, house allowances, average film rental at 50-60% plus an average 300% markup on concession items. My company is hardly a “Mom and Pop” chain, and we don’t place the ads because we wish to be as different than the airport theatres as possible, and we would be the ones who need the most to place them. And no, $10 a ticket is not a bargain!

Tim O'Connor is correct, for many reasons, go out of your way to support the theatres that don’t show ads for that reason but also to keep the prices where they are. JUST THINK OF WHAT PRICES WILL BE IF THE BIG GUYS HAVE NO COMPETITION!

JimRankin on September 15, 2006 at 3:52 am

The original idea at top about creating a list of “Commercial-Free” theatres here on CT may seem attractive at first, but, as usual, ‘the Devil is in the details’! First detail would be ‘What is a commercial?’ As one poster above noted, some cinemas call them “Spots” and would loudly object to anyone listing them as having “commercials.” Does Quantity of commercials matter? Should venues showing only one be forgiven that one and be listed as Commercial-Free, with all others having two or more be unlisted? Would CT find itself sued (even if only frivilously — at cost to appear and defend themselves?) for liebel or Restraint Of Trade?

Who compiles the original list? Who verifies it for accuracy? If just anyone here is allowed to submit theatre names, what prevents malefactors from submitting bogus or innacurate names and locations?
If a cinema changes policy who is responsible for notifying CT? A place deciding to add commercials will hardly brag about it, so may be happy to remain on the elite Commercial-Free list for as long as poossible. Would CT then deserve the loud cat-calls to come their way as unjust criticism? Given all this, how long would such a desireable list remain current, accurate and therefore useful? If one thinks he can just phone a theatre and get an accurate reply, think again. Most publically listed phone numbers only get you a recording, none of which will mention commercials if they are shown. If you can connect to a real person, is it the gum-smacking teen in the box office to be relied upon for ‘authoritative’ information? Will they know — or care? Who pays for the CT staffer to make cross-country calls and repeated follow-ups?

I would love such a list too, since I hate commercials vehemently regardless of where I find them, but the'Devil' will easily sink this idea!

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on September 15, 2006 at 6:20 am

Josh, First $10.00 is a major city price (ny&la higher)$6.75 is about the average ticket price a bargin for a movie .(thats $3.38 per hour for entertainment)
Now lets run some number-30% ON $6.75 IS $2.02 PER TICKET( THE AVERAGE THEATER MAKES )
candy is about 2oo% markup
popcorn is about 500% markup….lets say your per cap is $2.oo per person

This is a list of bills-
rent, taxes,electric,gas or oil,payroll,health ins,phone,movie listing ads,equipment,candy supplies,cleaning supplies,cleaning crew,
building ins,home office bills &payroll (IF YOUR A CHAIN)

MOST chains (not all)have been in or out of bankrupcy in the last 10 years …… and pops going dark…..

Oh to show a profit is the AMERICAN way…

I ALWAYS PIC A MOM AND POP THEATER OVER A CHAIN,if they have the movie i want to see.

I dont own my own theater-(but will soon ,i hope))i do own a chain of retail stores..(not theater related)

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on September 15, 2006 at 6:26 am

Josh i just see your in the Bay area …Thats one of the highest places to do bsns in the country…If your theater is under $10.00 that is not a bargin thats CHEAP.

NarrowGauge on September 15, 2006 at 6:54 am

As the owner of two theaters I have long followed this site but never have participated. However this topic interests me a great deal. We currently run a digital slide show prior to the movie which contains ads and thereby generates income for us. I absolutely refuse to run rolling stock commercials spliced to the front of the movie. I started selling ads for a preshow program as a way of keeping our ticket prices flat. We currently charge $5 for adults and $3.50 children/matinees and are a first run cinema with digital sound and some stadium seating. I believe our customers understand that the ad revenue helps keep our ticket prices lower than the competition. I am not sure anyone likes advertisements but I think people understand that they are a necessary evil. Your

paulie52 on September 15, 2006 at 10:44 am

I am a former NYC projectionist and more recently managed a theater for a mom & pop chain in lower New York State, so I’ve spent quite a few hours in movie theaters. I am also an avid movie-goer and do not approve of rolling stock commercial trailers. I believe the pre-film slide shows which advertise local businesses are a good compromise. They provide much needed extra revenue which is essential in today’s competetive climate, particularly in the smaller privately owned venues. Movie theater overhead is staggering, and payroll is one of the biggest items. I would have to put as many as 6 to 8 extra concession staff on duty on weekends JUST FOR CLEANING THEATER AUDITORIUMS BETWEEN SHOWS! It is absolutely apalling the condition that theaters are left in after each show, and that simple fact relates directly to ticket prices. If customers clean up after themselves, they will be lowering the payroll costs of the theater, and would then remove a formidable arguement that management uses to defend it’s use of commercials. The big theater chains are hugely profitable because they also make films, so they keep 100% of gross revenues on box office take of their own films. They also have multi-billion dollar bargaining power with the soda and candy companies they use, increasing their profit potential at the concession stand to boot. It’s double dipping at it’s finest! As huge media and entertainment conglomerates, they see their per screen investments as prime opportunities to sell to a captive audience. In essence, it’s triple dipping, and it’s just wrong!

stevenj on September 15, 2006 at 3:22 pm

Just wanted to clarify for longislandmovies what I said about admission prices (I’m in SF) since I am the one that mentioned the $10 admission price. I resent paying so much for admission when the audience is noisy and cell phones keep going off. The commercials were the final nail in the coffin. My business goes now to usually single screen theatres that don’t show commercials and some multi screen theaters were the audience is at least respectful. The admission price is still $10 or close and I don’t mind paying it if I can sit in peace and not be constantly distracted. The multiplexes (AMC, Loews)are the biggest offenders and not what I would call “great theaters” with their box look and $1.98 decorating.

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on September 15, 2006 at 3:30 pm

i think the cell phone issue is a great topic starter….it is out of hand ….when i see that light flip up in a movie i want to flip out….

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on September 15, 2006 at 3:30 pm

and its not just kids…………………..

SteveSumner on September 16, 2006 at 4:21 pm

I am the owner of a 1924 theater that reopened July 2005. Grand Theater, East Greenville PA (

As clearly stated above, audiences HATE the commercials (of course trade rags say customers LIKE them!).

We tend do things the way they were done back in the day, before TV. We have a curtain over the screen until showtime. Just like back in the day you never saw actors before the show, the same logic was applied to the screen as it showed the actors. Golden Rule – The audience should NEVER see a naked screen. Period.

The footerlights drop on the curtain and our logo hits the curtain. It then opens. I then show a policy trailer (Lets all go to the loby, God Bless Amercia, etc). Datestrip is shown. The one preview…for my next show. Curtain closes and reopens for the Feature.

No ads, one trailer, very happy customers.

My favorite is when kids come in before the show and literally ask “Where is the Screen?”

Our mentor is Richard Wolfe at the Roxy in Northampton – a true showman!

Ads will show on my screen OVER MY DEAD BODY!

Ed Buchinski,
Grand Theater

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on September 16, 2006 at 5:19 pm

THAT IS CALLED -DELUXING-the curtain closes between preview and feature…..

JimRankin on September 17, 2006 at 5:18 am

Ed Buchinski, 2 posts above, is doing it right! More power to him and Rich Wolfe as examples that there are some who can make it with CLASS rather then the ‘We couldn’t care less about showmanship’ corporate greed of the chains. Men like you are the ones that keep the torch lit of our hope for real movie palaces surviving into this millenium!

But will the ever-greedy studios and distributors allow such as you to continue for long? There is the rub.

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on September 17, 2006 at 9:05 am

ED ,i think you are living many cinema treasure members dream…but does the theater make money? Or does that not matter…

NarrowGauge on September 17, 2006 at 10:24 am

I wonder if “back in the day” the same arguments raged over adding concession stands to the movie palaces. I am sure there were purists who resisted such a move. However the economcs of today as then always require owners to reevaluate revenue. What good is a theater if it goes out of business?

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on September 17, 2006 at 10:37 am

narrow -thats what i am trying to get out of this discussion…..I hate ads..I was in the bsns when the first cola ad hit the screen some were around 1987-88….I fought that fight as loud as i could ..being only a dm at that time gave me little pull with the power that be over that issue.But that being said i do believe in todays times ads are a sorce of cash flow many theaters can not be without.The main problem faceing theaters in my opinion is cost of operation not theater attendance.

Jim Vecchio
Jim Vecchio on September 18, 2006 at 5:57 am

I am thankful for all your comments and have learned a lot from all of you. I would like to add a small reply to Joe Masher, one of the earlier ones to comment: I definitely will visit the CRITERION, in my old college town, New Haven-It seems everyone who goes there has something good to say about it! This part really does not belong in this section, but if Joe is reading this, I like the idea of the special screenings I have been reading about, the “Insomniac” movies and “Movies and Mimosas” (though I no longer imbibe!) I wonder if the CRITERION could expand these showings to some other times as well, since I cannot currently make the early Sunday and late Saturday showings. I have heard the CRITERION is expanding into more screens; Perhaps this could be tried as sort of an “experiment”.

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