Let’s all go to the movies ... and sit through 30 minutes of ads

It’s not Nicole Kidman’s fault, but there’s now way too much nonsense before a movie. PLUS: A ton of ‘Dune’ news, trailers for ‘Taylor Swift’ and ‘Garfield,’ and Zack Snyder has thoughts on math.

Let’s all go to the movies ... and sit through 30 minutes of ads
Nicole Kidman in her infamous AMC promo. / AMC Theaters

With Oscar weekend upon us, it’s time for a new edition of Popculturology. In addition to new installments of Deep SNL Thoughts and The Box Office Report, expect to see a special edition of the newsletter in your inboxes sometime Sunday night after the Academy Awards are over.

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Thanks to seeing Dune: Part Two twice in theaters last weekend, I spent a good amount of time sitting in a movie theater waiting for a movie to start. In both of those cases, it felt like we were waiting too long for a movie to start.

“As a guy who loves movie trailers it pains me to say this, but we don’t need trailers before movies anymore,” I posted on Threads. “Everyone’s already seen them online. Just start the movie and save everyone twenty minutes.”

That post wound up getting more traction on Threads than I expected, with my phone insistently letting me know about each new like and response over the course of the rest of the weekend.

Some people agreed with me. Some people said that the only time they see movie trailers is before a movie. As I sifted through the responses, it became clear that the issue wasn’t the movie trailers themselves — although, we could maybe lose one or two of them — it was how bogged down with other junk the pre-movie theatrical experience has become.

I’m not talking about Maria Menounos and her Noovie segment here. As someone who grew up seeing movie trivia before movies at General Cinemas, I’m totally fine with that kind of content having a place ... as long as that place is before the time a movie is scheduled to begin.

My first time seeing Dune: Part Two was at one of AMC’s tiny IMAX screens. The pre-movie process didn’t even begin until ten minutes after the time on our tickets, something the guy next to me and myself verified with each other. This was a 9:45 p.m. showing, and Menounos was still plugging her podcast at 9:55.

Before the trailers could begin, we had to sit through several Coke commercials, a promo for IMAX and a new bit where AMC thanks their investors. By the time we got to the actual trailers, the crowd had grown restless.

Despite starting ten minutes late, we still got the full slate of trailers, which ran at least twenty minutes. (Yes, I know this is an automated process, and it’s not like there’s someone sitting in the projector booth who could’ve removed a few of the trailers to get us back on track.)

After each trailer, our screen went black for a moment. You could feel the people in theater thinking, Is this it? Do we finally get to watch the movie?

Then the familiar green screen that introduces a trailer would pop up. The vibe in the theater was not good at that point. People were groaning.

Did I eventually get to watch Dune: Part Two? Yup. Did this wind up ruining the experience? Nope. But it feels like we’ve reached a point now where movie theaters have broken the unspoken agreement that moviegoers had been a part of for decades. Not only will we watch trailers before a movie, we’ll look forward to them. We’ll cheer them. In some cases, we’ll buy tickets to a movie just to see one of those trailers.

The saddest thing, though, is that I’m pretty sure the major theater chains don’t even care that they’re ruining our theatrical experience by overstuffing the pre-movie period with trash and more trailers than anyone wants to sit through. If they don’t care when the air conditioning is broken during a screening for critics, why would they care about the rest of us?

Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of noise about saving the theatrical experience, especially after the pandemic. Is this working, though? Is an onslaught of ads, promos and trailers how the theater chains save themselves?

There’s a limit, though, right? There has to be. Maybe it’s time we put our collective foot down and all show up twenty minutes past a movie’s start time. (In an era of assigned seats, there’s no risk to being late.) Are those ads worth anything if no one is there to watch them?

Let’s get back to a world where we watch a few trailers, ride an animated roller coaster past a few exploding popcorn kernels, listen to Nicole Kidman talk about the magic of the movies — and let’s do it all in fifteen minutes.

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One of the many trailers that I watched before Dune: Part Two last weekend was the Deadpool & Wolverine trailer introduced during the Super Bowl. A slight tweak had been made, though, with Disney swapping out the pegging joke for a comment about this being Disney’s first time with an R-rating. The promotional push for this movie is going to be interesting.

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Dune: Part Two forever

Rebecca Ferguson in Dune: Part Two. / Warner Bros.

There’s no way I wasn’t going to spend a good chunk of this week’s Popculturology talking about Dune: Part Two. I saw it twice last weekend. I’m seeing it again this Saturday at the giant IMAX at the Air and Space Museum by Dulles Airport. It’s honestly one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, and it’s wild that Denis Villeneuve was able to pull it off. (The New York TimesJamelle Bouie rightfully called Dune: Part Two “not a hero’s journey but a nightmare.”)