Michael L. Campbell
Co-CEO Regal Entertainment Group
7132 Regal Lane
Knoxville, Tennessee, 37918
January 22, 2004
Dear Mr. Campbell,
While we may have had our scuffles in the past, this time you have gone too far with your latest pre-movie push to rake in more advertising bucks. Your onscreen intifada, “The Twenty”: 20 freakin’ minutes of advertising for loosely related entertainment crappery put on screen for the captive audience of Average Moviegoers awaiting their movie. But in reality, what the hell is it? The unspoken agreement between screen and audience is clear; we can talk during the commercials, the amoeba-shaped blobs, and the trivia slideshow that asks us to unscramble Harip Silton*, but our comments are generally limited to only an affirming “Hmmm?” or a disapproving “Bleech,” (unless one has a really smart-alecky instant judgment, like “That preview makes my duodenum hurt”). But now with “The Twenty,” Average Moviegoers like myself are utterly confused. Do we sit there and accept these twenty terrible minutes of onscreen affront worse than watching Ashton Kutcher doing anything at all. Are you movie-theater owners not happy enough that we Average Moviegoers finish all our snacks and wind up buying seconds before the movie begins? You’ve soured the cinematic experience more than the collective insult of Pauly Shore’s gamut of wide-ranging performances, from his role as irritating goofball turd-monkey with a cave man, to irritating goofball turd-monkey on jury duty.
In theory, “The Twenty” may sound like a decent idea. Maybe you thought you were rewarding those movie-going early birds with infotainmentmercials? Well, you’re wrong, so stop it! Those of us that make an effort to arrive early have a reward already: choice seats and glorious coming attractions. Wonderful, bite-size samples of the films to be, the cleverly cut-and-pasted good parts of an upcoming Farrelly brothers’ picture, that will lure us back next week to happily throw another 10 bucks at Eddie, the pimply teenager behind two inches of glass and an incomprehensible speaker box.
The recent advent of pre-preview commercials has already tarnished the coming attractions’ sanctity. Moviefone… fine… it has a place onscreen. Helpful reminders to shut off your beepers and cell phones? Yeah, that makes sense. I’ll even admit that I have come to love the brown paper-bag puppets in the Fandango commercial gems. But still, I came and paid to see one movie, not an onslaught of your theater chain’s tactical efforts to gain more advertising dollars. There’s still the same amount of gum on my seat and soda on the floor creating that all powerful stickiness that locks my feet in place, so where’s that extra money going? Do I, the Average Moviegoer, see any benefits of it? No.
And now, with pre-preview commercials commonplace, you have the audacity to delay the movie further with “The Twenty.” 20 minutes of advertisements for NBC’s new must-see crap and TNT’s original film (airing Friday, Saturday, and Sunday!). Well, well, you’re quite clever. And perhaps the cleverest ruse is that within the 20-minute-long string of commercials, there’s even a break for more commercials! You actually warn us that “The Twenty will be right back in a moment!” just before we see the latest celebrity-sellout endorsements for Coca Cola. If we leave, we’ll give up our good seats, or miss the decent previews. You’ve got us Average Moviegoers captured!
I’m not a reactionary. I’ve come to terms that there are no quality shorts, or cartoons, or newsreels, or any of that old-timey stuff before a feature film anymore. The days of Average Moviegoers putting on fancy suits and hats are long gone. But why can’t we all stay put at the handful of previews, and maybe just that one clip of the guy’s head popping out of a bucket of popcorn to remind us that there are plenty of overpriced snacks still available in larger sizes for just a quarter more?
So pat yourself on the back, largest movie theater chain in the country, you’ve made my “Lord of the Rings” moviegoing experience an unaverage six-hour ordeal. Since you’re omnipresent in all but six or seven independent theaters remaining, I know asking you to end “The Twenty” is laughable. But couldn’t you do something to soften the blow? Maybe add one of those counting-down clocks so that we, the Average Moviegoers, can endure Hootie and His Blowfish’s latest direct-to-The-Twenty music video, knowing the torture must come to an eventual end? You could even blatantly lie to us Average Moviegoers and call it “The Ten” but show it twice consecutively. Don’t you realize how long “The Twenty” sounds? It’s a quarter of a Disney movie, an entire commercial-free sitcom on Disney-owned ABC, or 100 bucks’ worth of hookers from the Disney-run Time Square. What do I do with all these leftover Disneybucks, anyway?
I’m an Average Moviegoer and I’m not gonna take it any more.
*Answer: Paris Hilton!