Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.

On Advertising in Movies

Have you been to the movies lately and suffered through the half-hour mostly of ads and then coming attractions before the feature film finally appears? On Long Island, indeed across the United States, that has now become the movie-going experience. It’s obnoxious, punishing. And, I’d say, counter-productive for the film industry.

“Movies Have Worst Summer Since 1997” was the headline of the article in the New York Times about the drop in movie theatre attendance this past summer.  The Times said: “American moviegoers sent a clear message to Hollywood over the summer: We are tired of more of the same…The film industry had its worst summer in North America, still the world’s No. 1 movie market, since at least 1997.” The article asked “what separated the few winners,” the films that drew audiences, “from the many losers? For the most part, the winners convinced ticket buyers that they were not just more of the same.”

Is that the issue behind the declining audience at movies—that films aren’t original enough? Is it why there was a reported 4 percent decline in movie theatre attendance overall in 2014 from 2013? Sitting through the five or so coming attractions after the ad blitz is finally done, I must say I never would go to see most of these films—loaded with excessive, gratuitous violence. I think it’s more.
The high price of movie tickets today is, I’m sure, a factor for many people.

But, I’d venture, a key to declining audiences at movie theatres is the endless barrage of ads, national and now local, too.

Couple this with how you can sit at home and watch movies on a giant flat-screen high-definition TV. These include recently released films on HBO, Showtime, Starz/Encore, Cinemax, The Movie Channel and other premium cable TV channels. And there are plenty of good movies on “basic” cable channels, too. For non-cable households, satellite TV systems also offer an abundance of movies. Then there’s booming Netflix. And there’s simply putting a DVD of a film into a player. For any of this movie-watching, you need not deal with ad-after-ad before the film comes on.

Meanwhile, there have been movie theatres closing all over. On Long Island, where I live, it was lights out last year for Babylon Cinemas, a theatre that opened 93 years ago as The Babylon.

Newsday quoted the director of the National Association of Theatre Owners of New York, Robert Sunshine, as attributing the shuttering of the venerable movie house to people wanting “a choice…They want to go to a theater with eight, nine, 10 screens, and amenities to match.” Babylon Cinemas had been reconfigured as “only” a three-screen theater. Commented Jon Taylor, a former president of the Babylon Chamber of Commerce: “It’s another part of vanishing Long Island. It’s a sad thing.”

Ads came slow to movie theatres. First there were a few brief national ads, and then more and more, and longer and longer, and now a torrent of insufferable ads—for products, services and even TV shows.

The chains that own most of the movie theatres don’t want to give up this newfound revenue. “The slew of ads before a movie starts can be one of the most annoying parts of going to the theatre,” Dorothy Pomerantz who covers Hollywood for notes. “But theatre owners have no interest in getting rid of the preshow. That advertising revenue has become an important part of theater chains’ bottom line.”

Hollie McKay, who reports on Hollywood for Fox News, wrote a piece headlined: “Are out-of-control in-theatre commercials driving away moviegoers?” In it, Michael Levine, a media expert in Los Angeles, declares they are. “Movie theatre ads are out of control and history hasn’t been kind to businesses that insult their customers. The experience of going to movie theatres today is, frankly, insulting by the time the film starts. I am annoyed and exhausted.”

There’s a group challenging movie theatre ads called Captive Motion Picture Audience of America. Its website——offers offers ways for people to take action.
The companies behind movie ads brag about this captive audience. Says AMC Theatres in its sales pitch on its website: “No remote controls, DVRs or TIVo that help consumers skip your message.”

For me, I far prefer to go to movies that just show movies—no ads. On Long Island, the Sag Harbor Cinema is among the very few with this good policy.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

More articles by:

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, and is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

October 16, 2018
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System
Ramzy Baroud
That Single Line of Blood: Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah
Zhivko Illeieff
Addiction and Microtargeting: How “Social” Networks Expose us to Manipulation