We’ve all experienced the frustration of wondering exactly what time a movie starts.
sure, the ticket might say 7:30 showtime. But if you get there early to get good seats, not only do you have to wait until 7:30 for the programming to start, you also get stuck watching trailers and announcements.
On the other hand, there are times when we try to outsmart the system by being late on purpose. given that we wait for 15 minutes of previews, many of us also make the mistake of showing up for a movie from 7:30 to 7:45, only to find that the previews were shorter than expected and now we’ve missed the opening scene(s). from the movie!
In this article, we’ll help you avoid these frustrations by answering a couple of old questions. first: how long are the trailers before a movie? and second: does a movie really start at the time shown on the ticket?
quick answer: how long are previews before a movie?
For anyone who wants to skim through the article and find a quick answer, we’ll give you the short version here: 15-25 minute previews are typical before a movie.
These previews include trailers for upcoming movies, commercials for snacks and drinks, and even commercials for the theater you’re sitting in at that particular moment. And don’t forget the “remember to silence your phone” message that also plays before showtime.
Although the most common length of previews is 15-25 minutes, there is a huge amount of variation. therefore, this is only a rough estimate.
Keep reading to see the differences between theaters, time of year, and movie genres.
theatrical differences – variability & warnings
Many users have noticed that different theater chains have different typical preview lengths. for example, amc might show previews for longer (or shorter) than the cinemark across the street. this is not exactly surprising.
The part that’s actually surprising is that different theaters from the same company will also have different preview lengths. Therefore, an AMC in Dallas may show 15 minutes of previews, while an AMC in New York shows 25 minutes of previews.
Because of this variation, it is difficult to draw firm conclusions. Unless you know the person who actually hits the “play” button at your local theater, there are no guarantees.
however, there are some trends that can be observed.
- Large national networks tend to have longer preview run times on average
Cinemark, Regal, and AMC generally spend more time playing trailers than a small regional movie theater. This is probably due to the fact that the big national networks have relationships with advertisers, so there is more demand (and money) for the big networks to show ads.
In other words, if coca-cola spends some money running diet coke ads before showtime, they’re more likely to run these ads in a few thousand amc or actual locations rather than in your local auteur cinema.
In fact, many independent movie theaters show 10 minutes or less of previews. at my hometown independent theater (which has since closed, of course), the only sneak peeks would be 2 or 3 trailers for upcoming indie movies, followed by an ad for the local coffee shop offering you half price drinks if you brought on the stub of your ticket.
so, if you’re going to a movie at an independent, arthouse, or locally owned theater, you’ll want to show up right around the time the show is on (or even a little earlier). At Regal or Cinemark, you can almost guarantee there will be 10+ minute previews. in independent theaters, it is an unknown quantity. these smaller theaters are also often built in a way that makes it more disruptive for a late arrival.
- When playing a blockbuster movie, preview run times are typically longer
again, no rule is set in stone here. but thousands of anecdotal data points have helped come to this conclusion.
If you’re going to attend the sold-out opening night of Marvel’s newest superhero movie, be prepared for an above-average preview length. This usually means you’ll spend more than 20 minutes previewing (in some cases, this number will be closer to 30 minutes).
Ultimately, it all comes down to dollars and cents. advertisers know that a $150 million opening weekend for a blockbuster movie means a lot of eyes. That means more coke commercials, more popcorn ads, and more ads about premium movie options at the theater you go to.
- During peak season, preview run times tend to be longer
This goes hand in hand with the previous point. July blockbusters will generally show more trailers and announcements than you would if you went to a smaller February release. again, this is very much a financial decision. Also remember that, although summer is usually considered high season, there are other times of the year when the number of spectators increases, such as Christmas.
so what time does the movie actually start? Do previews start at movie time?
So far, we’ve covered the fact that previews are typically 15-25 minutes long, but some theaters show significantly fewer or fewer previews. in smaller independently owned theaters, you may see less than 10 minutes of previews. At larger theater chains, you can see more than 25 minutes of previews, especially during peak season and with major releases.
But what does this really mean to you, as a movie buff? Well, for starters, you should know that the movie usually starts about 15-25 minutes after the time shown on your ticket. so if your ticket says 8:00, you probably won’t miss a thing by showing up at 8:10 (or even 8:15).
If you plan to perform after the time shown on your ticket, remember to still be a good neighbor to others in the theater.
make sure you stay quiet when you enter, first. and don’t spend too much time looking for your seat or crowding others who are already seated.
And finally, some people really enjoy watching trailers and previews, so don’t bother or be on your phone! Even if you think of trailers as “just ads,” they’re actually an important part of the movie experience for many of us.
Although most theaters show between 15 and 25 minutes of previews before a movie, there is too much variability to draw definitive conclusions. This means that if you find yourself in a new or unfamiliar theater, it’s even safer to be seated at the time indicated on your ticket. this way you make sure you don’t miss any of the action.
If you want to take the risk of being late, remember that trailers tend to run longer than 15 minutes at national theater chains, during peak season, and during major movie releases.
With smaller, independent, or arthouse theaters, there’s always a chance your movie will start right at the time shown on the ticket, so it’s safer not to be late in that case. and even if the theater does show previews, there’s a good chance they’ll be significantly shorter, maybe even 10 minutes or less.