Why Does it Take 40 Minutes for the Movie to Start?

by Barrett

Are you also puzzled why you have to sit in your movie theater seat for so long before your flick actually begins? Is it to give you time to eat more popcorn?

Watching movie previews used to be a really fun part of going out to the films. Remember when there was even a surprise factor? Of course, today you can find all movie trailers online. So you’ve probably already seen every preview the movie theater is going to throw at you.

But these days, that’s not the half of it. There’s all of that bland Noovie programming with Maria Menounos that runs before the film is scheduled to begin. (It also drifts 5-7 minutes into what used to be the ‘coming soon’ zone.) And then, there are promos for TV shows. And for the final insult, there are all of the commercials.


Limiting my Exposure
I intentionally avoid most commercials, now that I can pay more for a commercial-less streaming experience at home. (The major exception is the commercial line up for the Super Bowl. It’s always fun grading the most expensive 30-second spots on TV.)

Yes, I pay more for our streaming subscriptions to minimize my family’s commercial exposure. I think it’s really worth it. Our twelve-year-old son has grown up consuming his media mostly without commercial interruption.

Sure, I still carry about a fair amount of parental guilt regarding how much screen time he consumes (a much more complex equation than when the debate was just over ‘TV’ time). But at least I can say that commercials don’t bathe his being nearly as much as my own experience growing up.

With this accomplishment, I am especially displeased that movie theaters have become a new Wild West for commercials.

I simply don’t want us to watch commercials before a movie.

I feel inundated, and it’s painful.

By the time we get to Nicole Kidman telling us what a great experience it’s going to be at the movie theater, I want to run away.

Talk about a terrible warm-up act.

A 3-Hour Tour?
No, the preshow isn’t all commercial content, but it bloats the entire block to an unwatchable length. Getting through it all feels like an endurance test.

When I went to see “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” with my son, I lost literally forty minutes of my life squirming in my movie theater seat waiting for the MCU to start.

That creates an almost 3-hour viewing experience. Who’s got 3 hours anymore? It’s too much time. Way too much.

Post-Pandemic Reality
I know this is not a new phenomenon, but it feels like it’s getting worse. That’s probably because I haven’t returned to an actual movie theater that many times since Covid closed them all down.

If movie theater owners want all of their customers back, punishing them with content they don’t want to watch is not an especially great plan.

I understand that the business model of movie distribution needs to work, but this is out of control.

How Long Will You Wait for your Entertainment?
Consuming commercials used to be the way people watched television for free. Then we were taught that we could pay for premium movie channels on cable. And that evolved to paying for commercial-free streaming services like Disney+ and Netflix. Sometimes, you can play less per month with ‘limited’ commercials. But for me…that pure experience without any commercial interruption is worth the extra few bucks a month.

So I pay for the programming I watch on TV, and it’s usually commercial free.

And that’s always been the business model for movies theaters. When movie ticket prices go up, you can grumble, but that’s how it works.

But then when you throw in obligatory commercials at the movie theater on top of that, it’s crossing the line.

Today, it’s hard enough to wait 5 seconds to click out of a YouTube spot before you get to watch your video. Waiting 40 minutes for your movie is ludicrous.

Times have changed. When we are offered the option to ‘skip the open’ on our favorite streaming shows, today’s movie-going experience feels entirely out of sync with reality.

Add Back 38 Minutes into your Life
Clearly, the solution is to show up at your movie theater seat about 38 minutes late (as long as you’ve got reserved seats.)

This just takes a little reset in how you schedule your time. Trying to miss the movie previews has now evolved to how to avoid the preshow entirely.

Movie theater owners need to redesign their customer experience and offer something more worthwhile during the preshow.

Or just simply play the movie. That would be quite the innovation.

New Movie Theater Business Model
Okay, here’s a scary question: Would I pay even more for my movie ticket to ensure I don’t have to watch any commercials?

I would.

If cinema 1 is playing the movie with commercials and a 40-minute preshow, and cinema 2 right next to it has the same movie that simply starts at the posted time, yes I would pay more for a ticket to cinema 2.

And if that’s been the plan all along, then I have to tip my hat to some really smart marketers who are playing the long game.

For now, I’ll just try to be that guy who shows up a half-hour late.