The joy of the ads and trailers: defending a cinematic experience

Cinema lead
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Do you like sitting through the ads and trailers at your local cinema? And do you think it’s all part of the experience?

What cinema is your regular chain? Are you a Cineworld person? Maybe a Vue-er? Perhaps a local independent is your tabernacle of choice? Me? I’m an Odeon boy, by virtue of geography more than anything. There isn’t all that much choice here in the South West.

If you too visit an Odeon, you’ll be used to the preamble before the main event and the Odeon-specific segments encouraging you to switch off your phones etc… but at one point, before the trailers kick in, the familiar Odeon voice guy says: “Ah, trailers! I love the trailers!” Odeon no doubt assume he’s speaking for all of us. Trailers have for decades been a key, thrilling part of the movie-going experience. As a child, they were almost as fun for me as watching the actual film itself.

It is fair to say that trailer quality has nonetheless declined in the last ten or more years, barring the odd exception. Trailers now adhere to a very specific, almost algorithmic formula of construction in the main, down to structure and music choices. Better writers than me have dissected it. The magic has somewhat worn away and yet the presence of trailers — those anticipatory teasers of movie delights to come — form the backbone of what I’m here to defend.

I’m talking about the bit most people have loathed for years. The near half-hour wait between the cinema screen powering up and the movie actually starting. It’s a space many people specifically now choose to avoid. And part of me just doesn’t understand why.

This leads me to another, related question: when do you traditionally go and watch a film? Do you have a set time or particular day? Are you more ad hoc? Often, I have tended to go straight after work, often catching a 4.30 or 5pm showing if the stars align. It is, you can imagine, a pleasant time of day to go. Mine is a relatively quiet Odeon anyway but that late afternoon space is often just before any kind of rush and, immediately on arrival, I feel a sense of post-work calm.

I don’t always arrive just as the first lights dim and the adverts kick in, quite often they’re already rolling by that point, but nonetheless I take my seat, usually with popcorn and a Coke in tow, and just relax into the moment. I get why some might strategically time their arrival just as the trailers kick in. For me, that feels like a rush. There is something about immersing yourself into the space, the surroundings, the smells, the sheer aura of being in a cinema environment that adds to the experience of enjoying the film. A sense of aligning with what’s to come.

It got me wondering what the general consensus was on this, what other people thought about timing cinema trips, engaging with trailers or adverts, even avoiding them altogether. On various social media platforms – TwiX (my affectionate name for whatever Twitter has become), Discord, BlueSky – I asked people about their own viewing habits and the responses were surprisingly mixed. More people than I expected actually embraced the idea of arriving before the trailers and experiencing the adverts, suggesting there is something to the feeling of embracing the atmosphere.

Here are few examples:

“I like to be in my seat before things get too dark and be settled for trailers with the biggest container of popcorn available.”

“I like to arrive in plenty of time. Like, 5–10 minutes before the ads and trailers start. Gives me time to get comfortable and sort my food out, maybe check my phone (making sure it’s on silent) I like trailers but all the adverts nowadays do my head in.”

“I always get there for trailers. Usually arrive at the ‘start time’ which means ads too. Trailers for me, are part of the cinema experience.”

“If I’m on my own I tend to arrive as close to the advertised start time as possible for some strange unknown reason. I keep my headphones on and spend the ads/trailers listening to podcasts or something until the BBFC logo comes up. If I’m with other people and we went to the pub beforehand then it’s sometime between the advertised start time and the film starting.”

“I always arrive before the start time, I actually enjoy having a few minutes in an empty, bright cinema just acclimatising and relaxing before it all starts. The adverts don’t bother me, they’ve been a part of going to the cinema forever and people who claim they’re always getting longer are wrong, they’re just getting more inane so we notice them. But I’d rather be absolutely on time, in the right seat and comfortable than crashing about in the dark, spilling my drink for the sake of avoiding a car advert.”

“Love showing up before the trailers and ads. I like to settle down into my chair, get my snack opened, and just sit. Watch people shuffle in. Listen to the barely audible Elton John or David Bowie playing in the room. Puts a big grin on my face, just quietly being in that space.”

That last comment particularly made me smile, how much that person just revels in the space around them. It also reminded me of the slightly unorthodox place I sit when I attend a showing. I always sit in the C aisle, in the first three rows close to the screen. Many wouldn’t sit there as they’d fear they’d be too close to the screen but for me, it adds to the immersion. It also prevents me having to worry about seeing the light of mobile phones being used by people in front, or being distracted by anyone. No one ever sits there, outside of someone with a disability. It’s rather joyous and adds to the fun of waiting for the show to start. A little neck pain is worth the result!


Not everyone shares the love of this experience, however. Plenty of commenters voiced their desire to avoid as much of the preamble as possible.

Here are some thoughts:

“I always arrive 5 minutes before the film starts. Hate the ads and equally hate arriving late and frequently baffled by how many people manage to arrive after a film starts, when they’re often 40–50 minutes after the start time.”

“I used to enjoy it when it was just trailers. The additions of product adverts dampened the experience, but at least to begin with they were a bit more special ads, like the mini-movies Stall Atois. Now there’s TV adverts, a couple trailers, followed by even more TV adverts.”

“I used to go early to get good seats, but with assigned seating, there’s no reason to show up early. There is too much stuff before the movie as well. A 3 hr movie doesn’t need 30 min of previews and a concessions add and a sound system demo before the movie starts.”

“Hate arriving early. Filled with anxiety about the people in there talking and misbehaving and will they stop. The same 9 adverts followed by 7 versions of the same trailer. I sit through it every time because of not wanting to miss the start of the film but it’s the least enjoyable part of the experience. The relief when I finally see that BBFC certificate is palpable.”

There seems, in those who arrive just before the film starts, to be a generalised feeling that the preamble is a draining waste of time, filled with vacuous advertisements that are a chore to sit through. I can’t say as I disagree. Adverts have always, and will always exist, in the cinema environment. The trick, I would say, is to let them wash over you. Even when Rege-Jean Page is rather smugly driving around a Westworld-style future city (with oddly no people) encouraging you to buy the latest Audi, allow it to almost pass you by.

For me, it is all about equilibrium. Arriving just before the film begins doesn’t allow me the opportunity to settle in. It’s not that I feel I’ve missed anything, rather I feel that my mind is still ticking over the journey or processing the day before. Having that time beforehand makes the expectation of the film grow and helps me reach a space of complete readiness to embrace what’s to come. Even if I have usually eaten all of my snacks before the film starts.

We’re all different. There is no one, correct means of engaging with the cinema space. All I might suggest is that you give getting there for the start time a chance. See how you feel. You never know, it might unlock a whole new experience.
Images: BigStock

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