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Theater sued for pre-movie commercials

Old 02-21-03, 12:12 PM
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Theater sued for pre-movie commercials

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmp..._movieads_dc_1



Exhibitors Draw Fire on Pre-Movie Blurbs
Thu Feb 20, 3:31 AM ET

By Carl DiOrio

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - High school teacher Miriam Fisch wants those four minutes of her life back -- and she thinks Loews Cineplex ought to pay for their alleged theft.



In a class-action lawsuit filed in Illinois state court on behalf of all Loews patrons, the Chicago-area English teacher claims the theater circuit's policy of playing pre-film product commercials amounts to a deceptive business practice because the ads begin at the time advertised as the start of a feature movie.


The legal action reflects the reaction of many moviegoers jarred by the increasing prominence of onscreen advertising in theaters industrywide. In fact, the succession of such pre-movie ads now often lasts up to 10 minutes or longer in many venues.


Even many proponents of the trend say cinema advertising is best limited to a few minutes prior to the advertised showtime, but that often isn't the case. Part of the problem involves the time required to clean theaters between showtimes, which can leave too little time to present commercials before the advertised movie time.


"It is completely ludicrous to have moviegoers pay good money to watch commercials," said attorney Douglas Litowitz, who is representing Fisch in her suit. "They can do that at home for free."


The suit seeks "lost time" damages of up to $75 per plaintiff covered under a class action, as well as an injunction to force Loews to stipulate separately when its onscreen ads will run and when movies will play.


Litowitz said he may target other big chains with similar suits in the future. "We feel the most people would be best served by going after the biggest chains," he said.


Litowitz and another Chicago attorney, Mark Weinberg, operate a Web site called NoMovieAds.com. He described Fisch as a "friend" who was troubled by the intrusion of ads prior to the showing of Miramax's "The Quiet American" at a Loews in suburban Chicago.


"The proposed class of plaintiffs includes a nationwide class (of) all recent moviegoers who have been misled by Loews' movie advertising," the attorneys said.


Loews spokesman John McCauley declined comment on the Fisch suit, saying the company had yet to be formally served.


Litowitz said he and Weinberg are mulling a similar action against No. 1 U.S. exhibitor Regal Entertainment, which recently debuted a digital "pre-show" of ads, movie trailers and interstitial entertainment on about 2,000 of its 6,000-plus screens nationwide.


But in what could prove a key distinction, Regal execs claim their 20-minute pre-show runs prior to the advertised showtime for feature presentations. Regal's non-digital venues also will adjust "rolling stock" advertising to play prior to advertised movie times, though some of its theaters still run those commercials after the lights go down at the scheduledmovie time.


Meanwhile, it appears unlikely that even a groundswell of negative public sentiment could reverse the industry's march into onscreen advertising. By 2001, such ads pumped an estimated $250 million in supplementary dollars into exhibitors' coffers, and the industry figures on double-digit annual growth in cinema advertising revenue for some time to come.


"My guess is it was up 20 percent in 2002, and we're expecting at least 30 percent growth in 2003," said Matthew Kearney, president of the recently formed trade group Cinema Advertising Council.


Kearney, who is chief executive of on-screen advertising giant Screenvision, said the Fisch lawsuit was "ridiculous." U.S. moviegoers are already used to movie ads, he said, though cinema advertising has yet to gain a level of acceptance in the U.S. to match its well-established presence in European exhibition.


"Everybody knows when they turn up at a cinema there's going to be some announcements, some trailers and these days some advertising before the main feature starts," Kearney said.


In a press release, Litowitz and Weinberg said the Fisch lawsuit "does not challenge the right of movie theaters to show movie previews prior to the start of the show." But current practices make moviegoers "unwitting subjects for annoying commercials," they said.


As far back as 1998, Ralph Nader's consumer group Consumer Alert was arguing that newspaper listings of movie times should be based on actual movie times and not the pre-movie commercials. The group also called for laws to govern movie listings.

"It's bad enough there are so many product placements paid for by brand-name companies in the films themselves without frontloading the audience's movie experience with more ads," Nader said at the time. "Whatever happened to art?"

In certain European territories, newspaper listings and box office signage stipulate both movie times and times for pre-show ads and trailers.
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Old 02-21-03, 12:24 PM
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I enjoy the trailers, not the commercials though since I see them on tv, make some new ones hollywood!
Seriously tho at two towers there must've been atleast 20 minutes of ads and trailers.
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Old 02-21-03, 12:28 PM
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I think it would be wise to start the previews/ads earlier so that the main feature would start on time. A lot of times I look up how long the movie is so I can decide what time to go. I won't go to a movie that starts at 10:30 if it's 2 hours long, etc. Although I can't really remember a time that I sat through much more than 5 minutes of previews/ads. If it is in fact 20 minutes worth, as mentioned above, that is unacceptable.
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Old 02-21-03, 12:33 PM
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I agree... I love to watch trailers before a movie in a theater, but I wish we could go back to the days (1996 if I remember correctly ) when they started letting people in 20 minutes before the movie was scheduled to begin and showed trailers.
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Old 02-21-03, 01:19 PM
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Hell it's not really the Trailers that people are complaining about. It's non movie related advertising that is getting rediculous. I typically see about 6-8 minutes of Commercials before the trailers actually start.

I mean the Warcraft advertisment is nice but it's a GAME not a movie. Allowing this sets a bad precedent that it's ok to charge customers money AND barrage them with commercials.
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Old 02-21-03, 01:20 PM
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I don't really understand the legal claim here. Even though I too don't like the commericals, what excatly is being violated here. The fact that the start team isn't being met? I'm not sure of the specifics of the contract (For example, if you go to a 7:30 movie showing, where does it say the movie has to start at 7:30? The show itself starts about then, but the show is including commericals and previews) who establish by buying a ticket, but even if you violate that contract, what are the damages?
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Old 02-21-03, 02:03 PM
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I clocked the ads/trailers before 'The Two Towers'. It was just over 19 minutes both times I saw it (at two different theaters)
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Old 02-21-03, 02:16 PM
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Personally... I dont mind those Still Image Advertisements that are displayed on the screen while we wait for the feature to begin. Those can actually be entertaining to some point.

WHAT I DO HATE... are the commercials for cars, cell phones, games, MARINES, and other crap. We pay WAY TOO MUCH on tickets and overpriced concessions so we should not be subjected to commericials which fatten their pockets.

Just to clarify for some... there is a difference between commercials and trailers. Trailers are previews of other upcoming films, and who doesnt like those...except for when you are subjected to THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE trailer 20+ times.
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Old 02-21-03, 02:18 PM
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Originally posted by supersalo
I clocked the ads/trailers before 'The Two Towers'. It was just over 19 minutes both times I saw it (at two different theaters)
I dont recall the times for Two Towers but I remember clocking the commericials along with the trailers when I saw FELLOWSHIP... and it was 25min at an AMC.
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Old 02-21-03, 02:29 PM
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Well I hope some good comes out of this lawsuit. I for one completely hate having to sit through 5-10 minutes of straight-up commercials before getting to the previews and then the actual movie. I feel cheated everytime I'm forced to watch commercials before a movie.

I just paid $10 freaking dollars for a movie ticket and you want me to watch commercials? argh.

-BT
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Old 02-21-03, 03:04 PM
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One of the main points here is captive audience. Some people always arrive at the movie theater later and don't mind missing the opening credits. I always try to be in my seat by the listed movie time.

The chain near me Regal/Edwards has started to show about 15-20 minutes of commercials before each movie and they are the same commercials every time. I'm getting quite tired of them. I'm tired of watching the Coca-Cola Young Filmmaker's Inane Brown-Nosing Film. I'm tired of watching NASCAR drivers attempt to look like they are discussing French New Wave Film while sucking down each other's beverage. If this crap were on T.V., I would change the channel. So it's a good deal for the movie theaters isn't it? How many people are going to take Roger Ebert's advice and just walk out of the theater? Not very many.

For those who are in favor of letting the Movie Theaters show an unrestricted amount of commercials before each film, be aware of this. If there is no restriction, what happens when the amount of commercials keep growing. How long are you willing to wait until you get to the movie that you paid to see? 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour?

What if Airlines decided on the same policy? What if they decided to screen 30 minutes of commercials before they took off? What if restaurants forced you to read through 20 minutes of print advertisements before they would hand you a menu? Would you stand for it?

The only thing saving the Theaters so far is that movies are akin to the idiot box. Sometimes we just sit and watch the dumbest, most boring things, because that's what's on. Otherwise the consumer wouldn't put up with it; they'd be up in arms.

Besides, what makes you think that any money that the Movie Theater Chain is making off the commercials gets passed off to you, the consumer?

I'm all in favor of this lawsuit. Theaters should show the actual movie start time instead of the commercials start time. That's all I ask.
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Old 02-21-03, 03:18 PM
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Sounds like a waste of a lawsuit. I see the same sort of mentality from this thread about another lawsuit of the same nature

http://www.dvdtalk.com/forum/showthr...hreadid=272647

My response of course... so that I don't have to type it out is this..

Lawsuits on theaters that are boarding on going bankrupt... Gee, talk about kicking them when they are down.

Listen, if you know the theater will show ad's. Go a few minutes later. Most theaters sell the space before the showing to local print ads. this helps theaters stay afloat.

If you really are law suit happy, here's who you should sue.. the studio's. why? Because of the % they take in the first weeks(more then a few mind you), the theater doesn't make a lot off the movie. Not to mention the amount they spent to buy the expensive print.. Each print of film does cost a lot of money. Now considering a lot of films don't have legs to walk on, this means the theaters don't make a lot of cash and must turn to other means to make ends meet.

I hate people complaining about something they don't want to do anything about. You don't want to pay more at the box office, yet you don't want to sit through 3 commercials... MAKE UP YOUR DAMN MIND!!! pick one or the other, The theater has to make it's $$ to recover from
A.) the film print they had to buy
B.) Expense of running the projector, clean up, etc.


Just like television is run by Ad Space, with the little amount that theaters are making, they have to resort to selling theater time to commercials. Product Placement doesn't give $$ to the theaters which are hurting, it gives money to the studio's the film belongs to.

I don't work for a theater, but consider this... the reason theaters are going bankrupt are for a few reasons. they expanded a great deal. Why? because they wanted to pop up everywhere so that you are close to one where ever you are. This means an over saturation of theaters. Now your saying simply take some theaters away right? Well if they did this then you would hear even more "Why isn't _____ showing in my area???" Well duh, _____ isn't playing near you because their is so few theaters around you.

http://www.forbes.com/2001/03/02/0302movies.html

So we get the situation where theirs to many theaters.. not to mention the Movie studio takes the majority of the first few weeks take of the theater. So even if a movie brings in 30 million for the weekend, the majority is going to the studio and the theater Hopes that the movie has a good pair of legs to carry it onto the point that the theater will take more % of it's sales in the later weeks (when it's not a special engagment). Sad thing is.. you notice a lot of movies have great openings but are gone by week three.

I say if selling ad space keeps them in buisness fine. The prices are high at the box office but I don't mind since I don't buy the popcorn and extra crap. My suggestion... Deal with it. Don't bring lawsuits to theaters that are already on their knees from the expense of staying open. Heaven forbid you have to add 5 minutes to the already two hours you set aside to watch a film.

http://www.howstuffworks.com/movie-distribution4.htm

Look at your latest issue of maxium. before you even get to the index, you have to sort through a few pages of ad's. not to mention the ads splitting the index.

Maybe we should be demanding that the advertisers user better means to sell us their products by creating short films with a lot of product placement? This way it would work as a sort of pre-movie short (animated or live) and will takes us back to the old days and it will allow the theaters to make a profit since if you follow that link you will see the break down of how the theater gets screwed and passes us the screwing that they get from the studios.

It comes down to what you want.. to get decent seats, sit through ads you would have normally sat throw because well.. you were going to be their 15 minutes early, so don't tell me that is worth 75 bucks as the above lawsuit suggest because no way would I make 75 bucks 15 minutes before a movie and frankly, I don't buy that you don't realize you are wasting a good two hours anyways whenever you go to the movies that you could have made money

Like stated before, this is an expense on the theaters that isn't needed and will result in either Higher ticket prices, Bankrupt theaters (which will be bought out by bigger theater chains and we will get a sort of monopoly going) and not to mention those bigger chains would be the ones that could afford a lawsuit here and their so they don't care if you don't like the ad's, they will show them anyhow.
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Old 02-21-03, 03:29 PM
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Nice post Staccatos! I only go to the theater about 2 or 3 times per year so the ads don't really bother be that much, but you make some excellent points. Personally I understand why theaters are struggling: ever-increasing admission and concession prices, astronomical fees from film studios, widescreen HDTVs/DVD/5.1 sound systems becoming more and more prevalent in the home. They may justify the increased number of commercials before their shows, but to the average consumer it is ultimately just another reason the theater experience is lacking much of the luster it used to have.
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Old 02-21-03, 03:39 PM
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I would also add, instead of suing people/corporations when you don't like something, one could always try and actually do something about it. Boycott theaters, complain to the manager, etc...

No need to sue people everytime something isn't too your pleasing. And I still don't really get the legal basis. No damages I tell you!
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Old 02-21-03, 03:57 PM
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Originally posted by Jericho
I would also add, instead of suing people/corporations when you don't like something, one could always try and actually do something about it. Boycott theaters, complain to the manager, etc...

No need to sue people everytime something isn't too your pleasing. And I still don't really get the legal basis. No damages I tell you!
I agree that suing in this case is stupid. Sadly, many times suing is the only way to get people to pay attention and actually make some changes. Personally, if the ads bothered me that much I would inform the manager that I will not be giving his theater my business anymore and tell him why. Then I would just boycott the theater and watch DVDs at home, which I prefer anyway.
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Old 02-21-03, 04:26 PM
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Originally posted by taa455
They may justify the increased number of commercials before their shows, but to the average consumer it is ultimately just another reason the theater experience is lacking much of the luster it used to have.

Must agree with that statement.. the theater I went to see DareDevil at... was nice except all the loud screaming people and the idiots tripping down the steps throughout the showing. it was a pretty bad theater going experience.

You could take away all the ad's all you want, but that doesn't mean you will take away the idiots in the crowd.
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Old 02-21-03, 04:53 PM
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Originally posted by Jackskeleton
Sounds like a waste of a lawsuit.

....

Listen, if you know the theater will show ad's. Go a few minutes later....... this helps theaters stay afloat.

...

I hate people complaining about something they don't want to do anything about. You don't want to pay more at the box office, yet you don't want to sit through 3 commercials... MAKE UP YOUR DAMN MIND!!! pick one or the other, The theater has to make it's $$ to recover from
A.) the film print they had to buy
B.) Expense of running the projector, clean up, etc.
I don't think it's a waste at all. If they win, which is a long shot, most likely the judge will reduce the fine and the message gets through that consumers don't want to play the stupid time game. I'll repeat what was said earlier... At what point does it become excessive?

Realistically, the lawsuit does not hold much water. The core of this case is to create bad PR against the cinemas. Other people might also come to realize that these ads are getting out of hand, and their voices will add up until someone reacts.

I don't understand your logic about these ads being necessary to the well-being of the theater. If the ad time gets reduced, then all theaters' budgets across the country are affected. Is it crazy to think that studios really NEED theaters to buy their films to put them on screen, and so they will reduce the cost reasonably to compensate (circa mid 90s)?

I guess I must have missed the headline that theaters were struggling in the first place... especially with their 5x the inflation rate hikes in already bloated ticket and concession sales each year.

Last edited by Corky; 02-21-03 at 04:59 PM.
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Old 02-21-03, 05:04 PM
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Just another reason for me not to go to the movies,Id rather watch it on DVD and not even bother with all the hassels,well at least untill Matrix Reloaded comes out but im glad someone took a stand because if I had the loot I would have sued myself.
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Old 02-21-03, 05:06 PM
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Originally posted by Corky


I guess I must have missed the headline that theaters were struggling in the first place... especially with their 5x the inflation rate hikes in already bloated ticket and concession sales each year.



When movies have no legs, the theater makes pretty much nothing off it. Many movies are like that. The last few years had a lot of one weekend wonders. this was at the time when theater standards were raised up a bar. Stadium seating, new sound systems, DLP theater conversion. it all cost a great deal and theaters usually use the film itself as a loss leader and make the money off the concession stand.. Now really, does everyone buy stuff at the stand? Hell, the only time I buy anything is at the few pacific theaters that have Pink's hotdogs.


Another issue here.. my theory that if the theaters that can't afford the suit get eaten up by the other theaters then it has the possibility of making it a monopoly of a theater chain. Imagen when the public doesn't have a choice because all the theaters are owned by 2 or 3 theaters. doesn't sound good for workers and the general public. or even the possibility of the studios owning theaters again (hey, with all the deregulations going on.. it could happen) and imagen when the indie houses end up losing out because they show an ad or two (I know a lot of indie theaters that show KCRW ad's.. is that too much? I don't think so.

then again, I have been used to all the ad's since the Calendar ad's have been around since I was young. who knows what will come about from all this. I would figure at the very least a higher ticket price. Also, You can get the perfect theater going experince by going to Archlight on sunset. You have doors close at the start of showing, no ad's. etc. etc. but the ticket price is 13 bucks a pop. So the perfect theater going experience can happen.. you just have to pay for it.

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Old 02-21-03, 05:32 PM
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Look at your latest issue of maxium. before you even get to the index, you have to sort through a few pages of ad's. not to mention the ads splitting the index.
One problem I have with this arguement is that Maxim and cinema are two different things. Maxim is a commercial enterprise. A piece of advertising. It exists to advertise. Cinema is art and it should be treated accordingly. You wouldn't want commercials before an opera or ballet (of course they do now, but that's another issue), you wouldn't want to see advertising in a museum (of course they do that at the gift shop, which sucks). I can't blame people for wanting to fight against this trend.

Not only are these ads unwanted, they are contemptuous of audiences. A really ugly example is that NASCAR driver Coke ad, where they joke inexplicably about "Dutch modernism" (whatever the f**k that is) and generally make light of the idea of "movie as art" and, with Coke firmly in hand, revel in the idea of "movie as product". A Coke ad wouldn't be so bad, but this ad is not only a commercial, but an insult to film. Why is it neccessary to allienate the audience THIS MUCH?

I also wanted to add that while you defend exhibitors because they are currently under financial strain, they have no one to blame but themeselves for that. Over expansion is what bankrupted them, not studios netting 90%, not drop off in attendence, not theater hoppers or people on their cel phones. They built to fast, they f**ked up, it's hard to have too much sympathy for unbridaled competition and unrestrained spending in a race to see how many stadium seating auditoriums they could put up in one year.

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Old 02-21-03, 05:47 PM
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Pants, we still on for the archlight Singing in the rain? I already R.S.V.Ped so just give me a call when you can.

Ok, getting back ontopic.. Yeah, I thought I pointed out that they did Over Expand during that time when movies had no real Legs to provide them profit. even now it's hard to see movies stay on the top ten list for long unless they are big blockbusters. But when you think about it, a lot of area's still have the single movie house or the one megaplex. it was a tough call.. Only show a few movies when a lot came out or expand to more theaters to try to cover them all.

Hell, in a few parts in L.A. and the near area's theirs three or more theaters in a 1 mile area. Look at glendale. three theaters just on and around brand. Look at Alhambra on mainstreet, 3 theaters all near each other sad thing is that they are all the same chain.. Edwards.

it's a combination of both studio prices and profit from that. Then when the theater goes under it gets bought out by someone else. It's a twisted existance, but unless those in remote areas don't want a theater near them.. that expanding is going to stop and I'm sure a lot of those who have a theater a bit of a drive away will have to suffer a longer drive to get to one.

No matter who's fault it is that they are not making money, you can't question that a law suit will not help the situation.
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Old 02-22-03, 01:03 AM
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No matter who's fault it is that they are not making money, you can't question that a law suit will not help the situation.
So are people that don't buy concessions, the part of revenues the studios don't take a cut of.

I don't mind since I don't buy the popcorn and extra crap.
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Old 02-22-03, 01:11 AM
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You missed the point where I mention that I don't mind the ad's. So by me not buying the conessions, I accept the ad's. it's a fair trade.. Not to mention if you read somewhere else, I buy the Pink's hot dogs.. and I'm not trying to sue or get the theaters to change. they do what works for them and it's all good. :-p
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Old 02-22-03, 01:14 AM
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Trailers are fun, regular ads are annoying, but I don't mind, just more time to go buy popcorn.
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Old 02-22-03, 04:42 AM
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I hate the commercials too (don't mind trailers) but what I hate even more than that are blatant product placements in the movie. I'd rather watch a commercial than have them insult my intelligence by trying to plant something in the movie.
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