This is old news for many people, but worth noting: Movie theaters have added commercials before previews before the movie you have paid to see.
However, this came as an unpleasant surprise when going to see Despicable Me 2 at the second-run theater in town last Saturday. The slides of ads leading up to the movie ran, silent and inobtrusive as we waited for the movie to start.
Then, the theater dimmed, and, when there had been previews before, now there were commercials.
(At least I had only paid $5 to see the movie in 3D, versus $12-15.)
However, these might be a sign of the future. Many movies are blatant marketing machines for a product already (see: Transformers, Smurphs, Battleship, nearly anything by Disney). Why have these individual commercials, when you can make a whole movie?
With this in mind, I decided to watch these commercials as previews of movies yet to exist. Here are three I remember:
1. Famous Footwear
Tagline: Footwear to bring together the family
Maria is a single mother, working two jobs, and struggling to make ends meet. Her three children, Rosa (15), Miguel (12), and Carlos (7 – because there has to be a cute, precocious child) all have individual problems, needs, and personality quirks passed off as a trait – all established in the first ten minutes of film.
One day, Maria wins a gift card to Famous Footwear, and buys shoes for the whole family. Carlos excells at the science fair, Miguel becomes a soccer-super-star, Rosa becomes an overnight rock star, and Maria meets the studly man of her dreams, who is rich and will take care of all their financial problems. Tensions arise as their dreams conflict, but then they buy a second pair of shoes at Famous Footware, and everything is solved.
It’s a heart-warming family film which also undermines Maria’s independence as a woman – but that’s another story.
2. Macbook Pro
Tagline: It’s a Race to the Future
We open with the epic orchestra and guitar of Supremacy by Muse.
Are we in Tron? Is this a car commercial?
No. This is the future.
Sleek, shiny, curved edges, and plenty of jump cuts.
We don’t really know what the plot is. Is this a spin-off of Tron? Is this Fast and the Furious, but in the Future? Is this a time travelling movie? Why is the narrator saying non-sequitors like “It is a race of speed. It is a race of fury. It is a race to the future.” This doesn’t make sense! But it looks really cool!
And the movie is scored by Muse! Who cares if it has a plot or not!
3. United States Postal Service – The Action Movie
Tagline: When the fate of the world depends on one package, the world’s only hope is… [TRANSFORM TO BIG, GIANT SCREEN-FILLING LETTERS] The United States Postal Service.
TEXT ON SCREEN: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”
FADE OUT, CUT TO
Super awesome chase scene. We cut between the diminishing time on a timer as a United States Post Office truck is swerving around the corner. A black car full of bad dudes are chasing them, careening, everything is chaotic.
We flashback. Standing in a dim office is a postal worker in full uniform. A shadowy figure hands them a package and says, “This package must reach the President. The fate of the whole world depends on it.”
Our stoic postal hero nods, and walks to their vehicle. The tires squeal as it peels out of the parking lot, and on to adventure. Is it a bomb? Is it top secret information? Why are they driving and not using a plane?
Tension builds as nefarious characters try to track the package. Action scenes ensue, through snow, rain, heat, and even a gloomy night. At last, a beat up and dirty postal worker is running with the package toward the President, but there are still enemies in the way.
Will they succeed? Will the President get the package? All this will be answered in… the sequel.
Which movie would you go see? What commercial that you have seen would make the best movie? If we bought more popcorn at the movie theater, do you think they would cut back on the commercials?
As a fun side-note, here’s a picture my sister took at the Monterey Bay Aquarium of an otter frozen in carbonite:
SIDE NOTE 2 – My friend Andres Salazar is doing a second round of Kickstarter for his graphic novel series Pariah, Montana. It’s going strong so far. If you like the supernatural and the gritty, old west, then check it out.