Inside Move: Pitchs before pix making producer twitch

Pre-pic ads add up to Rosenberg's headache

They call it “rolling stock” advertising, but the proliferation of such product ads before pics has auds — and now producers — griping.

“Commercials in a movie theater are a complete violation of what a moviegoing audience expects and wants when they walk into a movie theater,” fumes Imagine Entertainment prexy Michael Rosenberg.

Rosenberg recently visited the Pacific Galleria theater in suburban L.A. to watch “Spider-Man,” only to sit through a half-dozen pitches before getting to the film. Rosenberg is alarmed that patrons of Imagine pics such as upcoming Universal release “Blue Crush” will have to endure a similar onslaught.

“The commercials leave them emotionally annoyed,” says Rosenberg, who notes there was loud booing during the pre-“Spider-Man” ads. “It just disrupts the moviegoing experience.”

Vendors such as National Cinema Network and Screenvision say they limit ad blocks to four minutes. But with ads running either 30 or 60 seconds in length, that can mean four to eight commercials before the main feature.

Pacific Theaters, which operates the suburban Galleria, bans onscreen ads from its premium ArcLight theater in Hollywood. But Pacific and most other big exhibs allow ads in most venues because the revenue — running into the single-digit millions annually for the largest circuits — is too good to pass up.

“U.S. patrons will accept onscreen advertising if we keep it relatively short and if the ads are entertaining,” says National Assn. of Theater Owners prexy John Fithian.

Many rolling-stock ads offer splashy visuals and pitch products related to the moviegoing experience. (The L.A. Times touts its entertainment coverage in such ads.)

But theater ads now also pitch cars and other more pedestrian products. And with congloms ever alert for ways to push product “synergies,” some onscreen ads even promo studios’ TV shows.