Ralph Nader’s Commercial Alert is complaining that movie theaters do not warn moviegoers about previews and commercials before a movie starts. The fear is that Americans are being tricked into wasting their precious time.
Is anyone so stupid as not to know about commercials and previews? At my favorite theater the preliminaries average between 17 and 18 minutes, I have it down pat and they glad volunteered this information to me.
Furthermore early ads promote efficiency. You can come early, and sit through the ads, and get a better seat. Latecomers miss the ads but have to sit behind a tall person or scrunch up their necks in the front row. In quality-adjusted terms, the theater offers different prices, depending on whether you are willing to endure the ads, and how good a seat you want. This, of course, is price discrimination, which as we know usually increases output. If only the television networks could be so clever.
And of course ads are not required:
According to the Los Angeles Times, New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. don’t allow in-theater advertising before their films.
To the extent there are problems, they follow from poor coordination and violated expectations. Most moviegoers know to expect the ads, if anyone should be nudged toward full disclosure it is the theaters without ads. But of course, if this is a problem, they already have a good incentive to advertise that the movie starts promptly.
Keep in mind also that most moviegoers are the young, and they go in groups. They talk during the ads and determine the future of their social alliances, and thus the future of the world. If the time is wasted, it is not the fault of the advertisers.