Moviegoers love to complain about trailers. There are too many. They give away too much. They all sound exactly like Inception. But it’s not just the ticket buyers complaining — the people selling the tickets apparently aren’t happy either. The Hollywood Reporter recently broke the news that the National Association of Theatre Owners wants to establish new rules for movie trailers, limiting the length to two minutes, down from an industry-standard two minutes and 30 seconds. NATO declined to comment, as did the Motion Picture Association of America, which represents the six major Hollywood studios. But the report comes in the midst of a period of rapid evolution for Hollywood’s trailer industry. Fifteen years ago, the only place most people ever saw previews was in a movie theater or as 30-second TV spots. Today, trailers for major movies are also released online, often instigating a social-media frenzy. Even those for relatively small films — like the new preview for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s porn-addiction directorial debut, Don Jon (out Oct. 18) — can quickly become one of Twitter’s trending topics.
Would a mandatory two-minute length radically alter the style of movie trailers? Mark Woollen, whose company Mark Woollen & Associates recently released spots for Don Jon, Only God Forgives, and Captain Phillips, thinks it could be an exciting challenge. “I’m definitely in the less-is-more camp,” he says. “There are plenty of trailers that reveal too much. I would be interested to see if the two-minute format would force us all to be more creative.” But Woollen also notes that complaints about the lengths of trailers may be overblown. “It’s a research-driven business,” he says, “and the research continues to show that there’s still a [larger] percentage that want more information.” You mean we can actually blame ourselves for trailers that give away too much plot? Cue record scratch!