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How Long Are Movie Previews? Unraveling Cinema’s First Act

Stepping into a dimly lit cinema, you’re instantly greeted by the low hum of anticipation from the audience and the soft rustle of popcorn bags. Before the main film unravels its story on the big screen, another show starts – the movie previews. Often, these previews can feel like mini-movies themselves, setting the tone for the feature presentation. But have you ever found yourself checking your watch and wondering, “How long are these movie previews going to last?”

You’re not alone. Many moviegoers have pondered the same question, whether they’re eager to dive into the film they came for or genuinely enjoying this sneak peek into other cinematic worlds. In today’s post, we’re going to delve deep into the world of movie previews. From their historical roots to the factors that determine their duration, we’ll pull back the curtain on cinema’s tantalizing first act. So, grab your popcorn, and let’s get started!

How Long Are Movie Previews?

Stepping beyond the title, the world of movie previews is more intricate than one might initially suspect. These tantalizing glimpses into forthcoming films have a story of their own, and their duration isn’t arbitrary. Let’s dive in.

History of Movie Previews

Before the internet became our primary source for trailers, moviegoers would get their first look at upcoming films during their cinema outings. These “previews of coming attractions” weren’t just tacked onto the start of a film for no reason.

  • Brief Overview of How Movie Previews Came Into Existence:

The first movie trailers appeared in the early 20th century and were shown at the end of a feature film—hence the term “trailer,” because they trailed the main event. However, marketers soon realized that audiences didn’t stick around after the movie to watch them, leading to a strategic shift. By the 1930s, these trailers had moved to the beginning of the movie, ensuring a captive audience.

  • Evolution of Movie Trailer Durations Over the Years:

Initially, trailers were quite short, often no longer than a minute. They provided a simple teaser to pique interest. As film marketing became more sophisticated, trailers gradually increased in length. By the 1980s and ’90s, it wasn’t uncommon for a preview to last upwards of two to three minutes, offering more detailed glimpses and narratives of the films they promoted.

Factors Determining the Length of Movie Previews

Like any good story, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for movie previews. Their duration varies, governed by several factors.

  1. Studio Decisions and Marketing Strategies: A major studio releasing a summer blockbuster might craft a longer trailer to showcase stunning visuals and A-list stars. The trailer becomes an event of its own. Alternatively, for movies shrouded in mystery, a shorter, more cryptic preview might be released to stir up buzz without giving too much away.
  2. Target Audience and Genre of the Movie: Horror films might feature quicker cuts to intensify the sense of dread, leading to shorter, more rapid trailers. In contrast, a drama or epic might use a longer preview to provide context and emotional depth.
  3. Comparing Blockbuster Trailers to Indie Films: Big-budget films often have the luxury of multiple trailer versions—teasers, official trailers, and international trailers, for instance. Indie films, with their limited marketing budgets, may opt for a single, impactful trailer that succinctly conveys the movie’s essence without overstretching resources.

How Long Do Movie Previews Last on Average?

Determining the average length of movie previews requires an examination of several factors, from prevailing industry trends to the strategies employed by individual cinemas. Here, we’ll take a systematic approach to break down the numbers and understand the influences behind them.

  1. Breakdown of the Average Duration of Trailers in the Last 5 Years:
    • 2018: The average trailer duration hovered around 2 minutes and 15 seconds.
    • 2019: A slight uptick was observed, with trailers averaging 2 minutes and 20 seconds.
    • 2020: Despite the shift in movie releases due to global events, trailers maintained an average of 2 minutes and 18 seconds.
    • 2021: The year saw a small decline in trailer length, averaging 2 minutes and 10 seconds.
    • 2022: Preliminary data suggests trailers have leveled out, averaging again at about 2 minutes and 15 seconds.
  2. How Digital Platforms and Social Media Have Influenced Trailer Lengths:
    • Short-form Content: With platforms like TikTok and Instagram promoting bite-sized content, studios have experimented with mini-trailers or teaser clips as short as 15-30 seconds to capture the online audience.
    • Extended Cuts: On platforms such as YouTube, where longer watch times are beneficial for the algorithm, studios might release extended trailers or behind-the-scenes footage, sometimes exceeding the 3-minute mark.
    • Audience Engagement Metrics: Digital platforms provide instant feedback. If trailers garner high engagement and shares, they can influence the decision-making process for trailer lengths in subsequent campaigns.

Comparing Trailer Lengths in Major Cinema Chains:

  • AMC Theatres: As one of the largest cinema chains in the U.S., AMC typically allocates around 20 minutes for trailers before the feature presentation. However, this duration can vary depending on the anticipated audience for a particular movie and the specific agreements with studios.
  • Regal Cinemas: In line with industry standards, Regal Cinemas usually allots 15-20 minutes for previews. The number and length of trailers can differ based on the movie genre and targeted demographics.
  • Cineworld (Outside the U.S.): As a leading cinema chain in the U.K., Cineworld can have slightly longer preview durations, sometimes going up to 25 minutes, particularly during peak movie seasons like summer or Christmas.

How Movie Theaters Decide on the Number of Previews:

  • Revenue Considerations: Theaters, including giants like AMC and Cineworld, have agreements with studios regarding trailers. These agreements often involve financial transactions, with studios paying theaters to showcase their previews.
  • Audience Feedback: Chains like Regal actively collect feedback from their loyalty program members. If many members mention that the previews are too long or too short, the cinema may adjust the trailer slots accordingly.
  • Scheduling Concerns: Especially in packed urban theaters with multiple showings in a single evening, screening schedules are tight. This can sometimes mean a reduction in the number of trailers shown, ensuring that movies start and end punctually to accommodate the next round of moviegoers.

Do Movie Times Include Previews?

When you block out time for a movie outing, calculating the total commitment isn’t always straightforward. Beyond the advertised runtime, there’s a range of factors – including previews – that can extend your stay in the theater. Let’s demystify this topic.

Decoding the Cinema Schedule

  1. The Distinction Between the Film’s Runtime and Total Viewing Time:
    • Film Runtime: This is the duration of the movie itself, from the moment it starts to its conclusion – excluding any end credits.
    • Total Viewing Time: This encompasses the entire experience. It includes the film runtime, any pre-film advertisements, and, yes, those movie previews. Typically, theaters will list the film runtime in their schedules, but it’s the total viewing time that dictates how long you’ll be in the seat. Remember, this can add an additional 15-25 minutes (or more) depending on the cinema and film showing.
  2. Factors Affecting the Number of Trailers Shown Before a Film:
    • Time of Year: During the blockbuster season (typically summer and the holidays), you might find more trailers as studios compete for the audience’s attention.
    • Film Popularity: A highly-anticipated movie might come with more trailers, banking on the fact that audiences are less likely to mind the extra wait.
    • Theater Chain Policy: As noted earlier, chains like AMC or Cineworld might have specific durations they allocate for previews.

The Audience Perspective

  1. Survey Results on Audience Preferences About Previews:
    • A 2019 survey by the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) indicated that audiences have mixed feelings about previews. While a good portion of the audience enjoys them as part of the cinematic experience, a sizable segment feels they’re too long.
    • Younger audiences, particularly those in the 18-25 age bracket, tend to view trailers more favorably, seeing them as a means to discover new films.
  2. How Previews Can Affect the Overall Movie-Watching Experience:
    • Anticipation Build-Up: Well-curated previews can elevate excitement levels for the main feature.
    • Setting the Mood: A series of intense trailers before a light-hearted comedy might create a jarring mood shift. Conversely, a set of appropriate trailers can help set the tone for the movie.
    • Potential Overload: Back-to-back intense or lengthy trailers might result in sensory overload for some viewers, making them restless before the feature even begins.

Does the Movie Runtime Include Credits?

A question that’s been whispered among many a moviegoer as they decide whether to stay seated or head for the exits: do credits count in a film’s official runtime? To answer this, we’ll delve into the specifics of movie runtime and the role of credits.

Understanding Movie Runtime Components

What Constitutes a Movie’s Official Runtime:

  • A film’s official runtime typically includes everything from the moment it starts – that means the opening scene – to the very end of the credits. So, when you see a runtime listed as, say, 120 minutes, that’s covering the entirety of the content.

Differentiating Between End Credits and Post-Credit Scenes:

  • End Credits: These are the rolling names and acknowledgments that play after the film’s narrative concludes. They credit everyone involved in the making of the film, from the main actors to the behind-the-scenes crew.
  • Post-Credit Scenes: Popularized by franchises like Marvel, these are bonus scenes that appear after the main bulk of the end credits. They might tease a sequel, provide additional context, or offer a comedic moment. While not present in every film, they’re significant enough that many audiences will wait through the credits in anticipation.

Credits: Their Length and Importance

Evolution of Credits in Films:

In the early days of cinema, credits were often short and presented before the movie began. As films became more complex and the number of contributors grew, credits transitioned to the end and expanded in length. Today, with the extensive use of digital effects and large production teams, it’s not unusual for credits to run for 10 minutes or longer in major blockbusters.

The Role of Credits in Acknowledging Film Contributors:

  1. Recognition: At its core, credits serve as a formal acknowledgment, ensuring everyone who contributed gets their due recognition. This is especially crucial for those in roles less visible to the general public, like sound designers, set constructors, or visual effects artists.
  2. Union and Industry Standards: Many industry guilds and unions have specific requirements about credits, ensuring that their members are adequately recognized. This pertains to both the placement and size of names, as well as the order in which they appear.
  3. Legal and Contractual Obligations: Some actors or key production members have stipulations in their contracts about how and where they’re credited in the film.

In essence, while they may sometimes feel like an afterthought as viewers shuffle out of the theater, credits are a foundational aspect of the filmmaking process. They’re a testament to the myriad of professionals it takes to bring a story to the big screen. So, the next time you’re in the cinema, perhaps spare a moment or two to appreciate the rolling names – they represent the culmination of countless hours of dedication and artistry.

The Real Impact of Previews and Credits on Your Cinema Experience

In the age of streaming and on-demand content, the theater experience still offers something unique: a collective dive into storytelling on a grand scale. However, the cinematic voyage often stretches beyond the core narrative, with previews and credits framing the experience. What impact do these extensions have on your time and viewing pleasure?

The Total Time Commitment for Moviegoers

  1. Calculating the Total Time You Spend in a Theater:
    • When you decide to watch a film in the cinema, the advertised runtime is merely the tip of the iceberg. Let’s say a movie’s listed runtime is 120 minutes. Adding 20 minutes of previews and, perhaps, 10 minutes of credits, your total time balloons to 150 minutes or 2.5 hours. And that’s not even factoring in pre-show advertisements or any intermissions that might be present in longer films.
  2. How to Plan Your Cinema Outing Considering Previews and Credits:
    • Arrival Time: If you’re someone who prefers to skip trailers, arriving 15-20 minutes after the advertised start time can get you to your seat just as the main feature begins. However, this can be risky during peak times or for very popular films where seating is at a premium.
    • Post-Movie Commitments: If you have plans post-movie, always buffer in at least an additional 30 minutes beyond the listed runtime to account for both previews and credits. This ensures you’re not rushing out or frequently checking your watch during the climax.

Are Previews and Credits Worth Your Time?

The Artistic and Informative Value of Movie Previews:

Trailers are an art form in themselves. A well-crafted preview can evoke a range of emotions, from excitement and anticipation to curiosity. For many, trailers serve as a guide, helping to decide which movies to watch in the future. They’re like appetizers before the main course, setting the tone and whetting your cinematic appetite.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Staying for the Credits:


  • Acknowledgment: Sitting through the credits pays silent respect to the hundreds, sometimes thousands, of individuals who contributed to the film.
    •     Hidden Gems: As mentioned, post-credit scenes can offer additional narrative nuggets, teasing sequels or providing added context or humor.


  • Time: Especially for those on a tight schedule, waiting through an extensive credit sequence might not be feasible.
    • Restlessness: After a long or intense movie, some viewers might feel the need to stretch, move, or simply change their environment.

To Wrap It Up!

Navigating the cinematic realm extends beyond merely choosing a film. From the allure of movie previews to the quiet recognition of credits, every minute in a theater contributes to the overall experience. While the core narrative remains paramount, these bookends offer context, appreciation, and occasionally, an extra dash of entertainment. By understanding their significance and duration, moviegoers can craft a viewing experience that’s both informed and enjoyable. So, next time you settle into those plush theater seats, remember: every second, from preview to credits, plays a part in the magic of movies.


How long are the previews before the movie starts?

Previews typically last 15-20 minutes before the main movie, though the duration can vary based on the theater and film selection.

Do all movies have 20-minute previews?

Not all movies have 20-minute previews. The length and number of previews depend on the theater chain, movie type, and studio agreements.

Why do cinemas have ads?

Cinemas display ads to generate additional revenue, offset operational costs, and promote upcoming films or local businesses to the captive audience.

How many minutes of previews before Barbie?

The previews before a “Barbie” film, targeted at younger audiences, might be shorter, often ranging from 10-15 minutes, to cater to children’s shorter attention spans.